While currently being funded by NASA as a space technology research fellow, Michelle Vaisman is working to make the most out of solar energy, both in space and on earth. Working alongside top talent at the National Renewable Energy Lab, the nation’s premier lab for renewable energy research, she is developing lower-cost, higher-efficiency photovoltaics in an effort to make solar energy competitive with fossil fuels. Michelle began college at the age of 13 and has since developed a broad science and math background, earning dual degrees from UC Berkeley in chemistry (B.S.) and applied mathematics (B.A.). She is currently studying materials science and semiconductor technology where she has earned two masters degrees (M.S. and M.Phil.) in electrical engineering and continues to pursue her Ph.D. at Yale. She has a passion for mentoring young scientists and believes they need strong role models to encourage their interest in STEM fields, which she strives to be through her involvement in various programs and activities.
“The endless potential for science to positively influence society is what has driven me to pursue science. Science drives our entire society.
Energy is a topic of paramount importance in our society, given rising energy demands. Solar energy is one of many technologies crucial to develop in order to enable green, renewable power, which can significantly mitigate our carbon emissions for a positive global environmental impact. I have pursued a variety of exciting research topics such as graphene and quantum dots, and in my PhD work, have set new records in solar cell efficiencies. I plan to build and expand upon what I have already accomplished to further advance the field of renewable energy, which will guide our society’s trajectory both economically and scientifically.
I have always had an internal drive and steadfast ambition to make a lasting, positive impact on society. Growing up, my parents have been a source of inspiration and have constantly supported me in my pursuit of the goals I set for myself by providing me the best education while giving me freedom to pursue my interests. My scientific ambitions have become increasingly strengthened by the pressing need for societal change in the realm of energy sources. In America, we still rely so heavily on fossil fuels, despite the widespread alarm concerning global warming, which compels me to continue making strides in the field of renewable energy.
I hold the Amgen Scholars Program quite dear to me, as it was my first rigorous research experience that inspired true scientific curiosity in me. It was in the Amgen Scholars Program where I first learned how to pose a hypothesis and rigorously test it through self-designed experimentation, which was an incredibly empowering experience. The breadth of fields I was exposed to through seminars at Caltech and the Amgen Scholars U.S. Symposium introduced me to the exciting field of alternative energy, inspiring me to pursue the field further through research at UC Berkeley, Harvard, Cornell, and ultimately Yale for my PhD.”View all Ten To Watch