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Mechanical engineering major Zoe Barbeau was featured as a STEM Scholar of the Burnett Honors College. Below is her interview:

Major: Mathematics and Engineering

Year: Senior

Prestigious Scholarships Received: Astronaut Scholarship, Walker STEM Scholarship (2019)

Why is STEM important to you?

STEM is important to me because of its power to be transformational for our communities, society, and world. Advances in STEM reverberate across the globe. On a personal level, I love the quest of answering an open-ended question and being the first to contribute some particular piece of new knowledge.

What internships have you done and where?

High Energy Density Physics Program Intern at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

I worked to design a physics target package through simulations for a experiment to see if magnetic fields suppress the Rayleigh Taylor Instability. The Rayleigh Taylor Instability is the leading degradation mechanism preventing ignition in a fusion reaction from being achieved. If this instability can be suppressed, we would be closer to using fusion as a viable energy source. My target package concept showed that the experiment at the National Ignition Facility, which is the world’s most energetic laser-housed LLNL, is valid and gave clear direction towards the path forward.

National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates at the Soft Materials Research Center

This was at the University of Colorado-Boulder. I was a research team member in a pilot study on the effect of PGE2 on osteocytes, relating to the mechanical loading of osteocytes. PGE2 has potential as a treatment for osteoporosis because it is released under mechanical loading to give bone remodeling effects. However, in other concentrations it is inflammatory. I grew osteocyte stem cells and tested the impact of PGE2 concentration through treatments.

What goals do you have for the future?

I plan to go for my Ph.D. in applied mathematics or mechanical engineering, and then pursue a career as a Department of Energy researcher studying renewable energy.