Aaditya Rau wins Provost’s Undergraduate Research Award (PURA)

January 4, 2021

Mechanical engineering junior Aaditya Rau has been awarded the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Award (PURA)  for his project titled “Atomistic Simulations of Dislocation Mechanisms in Nanotwinned Ni-Mo-W Alloys.”

The PURA grant is open to undergraduates from any division working with a mentor in any JHU division, center, or institute. Undergraduates can perform independent research, create a design, foster their entrepreneurship, or focus on scholarly and creative projects over the academic year with the help of a $3,000 fellowship.

Under the guidance of Kevin Hemker and Jaafar El-Awady, Rau will perform molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of nanotwinned Ni alloys deformation.

In prior experiments, Hemker’s group has shown that Ni alloys have high potential for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) applications, due to their superlative properties. Rau’s project will aim to understand how Ni alloy strength is affected by interactions between dislocations and twin boundaries.

“Molecular dynamics simulations are well-suited to this task because it allows for simulations at the scale of the crystal structure – tens of nanometers – and can be used to produce informative visualizations that cannot be produced experimentally,” said Rau.

A native of Lincoln, Nebraska, Rau says his interest in research stemmed from a high school internship at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he studied the synthesis and applications of graphene for use in MEMS alongside Qin Zhou, assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering. Rau joined Hemker’s research group in 2019 as a freshman, and went on to complete summer internships at the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) with Aaron Catledge and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) with Igor Kaganovich.

During his PPPL internship this past summer, Rau learned how to use the MD simulation technique to simulate the bombardment of graphite with boron.

“When I returned to Johns Hopkins for a remote semester, I wanted to extend what I learned about MD simulation to a topic relevant to Professor Hemker’s research. This ended up manifesting as a project to investigate the deformation mechanisms in Ni alloys and our application for the PURA grant, which I’m very thankful to have received,” said Rau.

Rau and his fellow PURA recipients will present their project results at DREAMS, an annual event held in late spring that showcases undergraduate research at Johns Hopkins.

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