Chen, Sophia

Chen, Sophia

I am a first-year physics Ph.D. student at the University of Arizona, researching utility-scale solar energy in Dr. Alex Cronin’s lab.   I am passionate about environmental issues such as pollution, energy security, and climate change. In addition to their technical elements, I am also interested in the social aspects of these issues, particularly promoting interdisciplinary and cross-cultural communication.  I spent a year in China on a Fulbright fellowship researching coal-related pollution.  While there, I taught environmental awareness classes to Chinese students to help bridge the gaps between our perspectives.   Outreach—raising environmental awareness and capturing the interest of a new generation of scientists—is essential to this line of work.  The Space Grant allows me to communicate with different groups of people about these environmental issues.

I help organize and coordinate a high school solar go-kart competition run by Tech Parks Arizona at the University of Arizona Tech Park called Racing the Sun (RTS).  The program is in its third year, and participating schools come from all over Arizona, including Tucson, Phoenix, and Monument Valley areas.  Students design, build, and race solar-powered go-karts under the mentorship of two high school teachers.  The participants gain skills in electronics and engineering in a fun, hands-on setting.  In the spirit of interdisciplinary education, the program also has an entrepreneurial component:  the students fundraise the cost of the go-kart.  I connect academics and industry professionals to mentor these high school students, and I help to organize and teach workshops.  The program seeks to promote interest in STEM and to help students begin to develop the skills necessary for such careers.

Graduate Research Fellows