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Alden Helen Laird O'Rafferty | Student Spotlight

"I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to do impactful research while nurturing my scientific communities"


Alden Helen Laird O'Rafferty

Undergraduate Student
Materials Science and Engineering

"I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to do impactful research while nurturing my scientific communities.

My current research studies the impact of the Solid Electrolyte Interface on Lithium mediated ammonia synthesis, with the hope of making a renewable energy powered, decentralized alternative to the Haber Bosch process. I feel that my classes have given me a versatile tool set to apply to a variety of materials problems (and solutions!) on technologies ranging from perovskite solar cells at Swift Solar (founded by Stanford MatSci PhD alums, my foot-in-the-door of sorts), silicon battery anodes at the National Renewable Energy Lab, LFP battery imaging at the International Iberian Nanotechnology Lab in Portugal, and Lithium mediated nitrogen reduction work in the Jaramillo group in ChemE. I also spent 2 summers running the UC Berkeley Girls in Engineering summer camp for middle schoolers from underrepresented backgrounds in STEM. 

I remember sitting in my first Materials Science classes and feeling like I was drinking from a firehose of information. After 4 years in the department, I now hear our many characterization acronyms and recognize most of them, but it took a long time to get there! I am grateful to the professors and especially a few remarkable grad students and lecturers who have been beacons of knowledge and belonging for myself and so many other undergrads. I am also appreciative of our undergrad community, which consistently shows up for each other through social events (our famous crafternoons!), study help, course planning advice, and a remarkable level of trust and vulnerability. Giving support to my fellow students through pep talks, organizing grad school panels, setting up Professor coffee chats, and connecting folks to internships as co-president of Stanford Undergraduate Materials Society is one of the most special opportunities I have had in the department, and is undeniably the one I am most proud of. 

Through watching our awesome grad students and engaging in the undergrad cohort, I have been reminded that the difference between going through a learning journey alone versus with a strong community is night and day. I know that my peers will go on not only to have incredible careers, but also to be seeds of inclusive and collaborative communities. I can’t wait to send future undergrads to intern under them."

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