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Legenski travels to Singapore as part of Fulbright Scholarship

Nicole Legenski in cap and gown
Nicole Legenski

Nicole Legenski ’12 in Electrical Engineering, was awarded the Fulbright Scholarship to complete research that she began at Penn State Berks at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Legenski will leave for Singapore in early August 2012, and return in May 2013.

Legenski received the Fulbright Student Grant, which provides recipients with the opportunity to study or perform research in other countries, to work in Dr. Han Song Cheng’s research laboratory at the NUS. Her internship was completed in collaboration with Cheng, and Legenski says she will be using the skills she gained from this project in her Fulbright research. This includes her experience in Density Functional Theory (Cheng is a noted specialist in this field). She will also use Potential Energy Function (PEF)-modeling to describe the energy in each metallic system, further allowing the force field for any metallic cluster to be obtained.

During this nine-month stay, Legenski projects that she will work at least a 40-hour work week, doing computational research, in addition to facilitating experimental lab work.

The research that Legenski will be conducting is similar to her experience with her National Science Foundation internship that she completed with Dr. Robert Forrey, Professor of Physics at Penn State Berks, during the summer of 2010. Her internship included collaboration with a research team from NUS. Researchers provided Legenski with large amounts of chemistry data, for the purpose of developing atomic force fields to study novel materials such as metallic glass.

“The force field provides a model of the chemical data and is an important input in molecular dynamics simulations,” said Legenski. “Most simulations use simple force fields that are not very accurate. Our goal is to develop more reliable force fields so that the simulations are more reliable.”

Legenski and the rest of the research team published “Force Fields for Metallic Clusters and Nanoparticles” in the Journal of Computational Chemistry in December of 2011. Based on her work, Legenski was awarded the Outstanding Internship Award for the Science Division at Penn State Berks. This award is presented to an outstanding student who has demonstrated an integration of academic training and professional application through the internship experience.

Her internship lead Legenski to spend her spring semester at NUS, where she continued her education in electrical engineering and trained the host research team how to use the codes that she and Forrey had developed.

“The graduate students and post-docs at NUS were ridiculously smart,” added Legenski. “It was a great experience, and I was glad to be able to contribute.”

Legenski attributes her success in receiving the Fulbright Student Grant in part to her mentors at Berks, Forrey and Dr. Sandy Feinstein, Associate Professor of English and Honors Coordinator at Berks, who initially encouraged her to apply.

“I’m extremely grateful to Dr. Robert Forrey for cultivating me as a researcher in my undergraduate career, and Dr. Sandy Feinstein for inspiring me to pursue international educational experiences.”

With this new opportunity, Legenski said that she plans to enhance her professional experience as a member of a research lab, possibly working in such an environment in industry, or use this experience to pursue a graduate degree. She also hopes to successfully carry out the purpose of the Fulbright grants, and ultimately create beneficial ties between the United States and Singapore.

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