Summer Research Experience, De’Ja Rogers 2016

Hello, my name is De’Ja Rogers. I am currently a rising sophomore Electrical and Electronics major at Norfolk State University. This is my research experience as a participant in the NSF REU Program at Boston University, under Dr. Helen Fawcett. I worked with Nifemi Mabayoje, a teacher at East Boston High School, a participant in the NSF RET Program.

From what I heard about summer internships, they are supposed to be strictly professional and highly intense. At Boston University, that, thankfully, is not necessarily the case. I was given the opportunity to work with Dr. Sahar Sharifzadeh and Nathan Frey in Professor Sharifzadeh’s lab, simulating and understanding organic radicals. Though my experience was not perfect, I did enjoy it. It not only broadened my knowledge, I learned valuable life lessons, and was able to experience one of America’s most popular cities.

Dr. Fawcett, De'Ja, and Dr. Sharifzadeh (left to right)

Dr. Fawcett, De’Ja, and Dr. Sharifzadeh (left to right)

The beginning of the internship was quite rough. I was so interested and eager to begin my part of the project, that I never realized that I did not have enough knowledge to complete even the simplest task. The group project required knowledge of quantum mechanics, quantum physics, and quantum chemistry. As a rising sophomore, I was behind on two years of knowledge and did not have much time to catch up. I felt severely overwhelmed and wondered if I had made the right choice in participating. Surprising almost everyone, including myself, I was able to grasp enough of the quantum mechanics after just two weeks, using courses on

The specific radical I, with the help of my mentor Nathan Frey and my partner Nifemi Mabayoje, focused on was 2,2,6,6-tetramethyl-1-piperidinyloxy (TEMPO). My job was to compute and simulate TEMPO structures, on PTMA backbones, in a way that would allow for sufficient electron charge transfer. I had six different cases to examine. I created the structures using a program called Avogadro, and calculated/simulated molecular orbitals, total energy, and spin density, on the programs Gaussian09 and Gaussview.

Over the course of this summer, I learned more than just the science required for my project. I was able to learn new coding languages and environments, like Linux and Bash. Also, I learned more about myself and some valuable lessons just by enduring the internship. I learned that I need to be more patient and accepting, when dealing with situations I am not able to control. I also learned about perseverance and the quality of teamwork. Lastly, I found that I am not a city girl. As beautiful as the architecture is, as many activities there are to participate in, and as tasty as the food is, I prefer peace and quiet.

De'Ja explains her research to another participant and to graduate student mentor, Nathan Frey

De’Ja explains her research to another participant and to graduate student mentor, Nathan Frey

I thank Professor Helen Fawcett for the opportunity to gain research experience, and Professor Sharifzadeh, Nathan, and Nifemi for working with me this summer. I have grown intellectually and personally from this experience. I am glad that it was my first.