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Undergrad Research, Part I: Why I KAir

 Written by    May 22, 2014

Sure, you’ve heard OSU is “a large research university,” blah blah, but that’s just to make the university sound good, right? What does “research” actually mean for the average student?

I’ve been working in a materials chemistry lab for the last semester-plus and love it. In the next two posts, I’m explaining (1) why I care about undergrad research and (2) why you should care about it too.



1. I like it. I was always super-excited to come into the lab in the beginning of the semester. However, I was sure I would eventually get tired of it and just waited for the novelty to wear off.

The scary part: the novelty hasn’t worn off.

I still eagerly anticipate coming into the lab now, five months later. Though I can hear grad students everywhere yelling “JUST YOU WAIT!”, I still think that’s a pretty decent indicator that I could do research for a long time to come.

2. I’ve learned a jillion new things. Of course, doing organic synthesis without having taken OChem means that I’ve learned a lot. But besides techniques and terminology, I’ve learned about the research process (slow and often frustrating, in case you were wondering), about research presentations, how lab groups work, and what the life of a grad student looks like.

3. I’ve learned a jillion ways NOT to do things. I’m pretty sure I could release a new edition of 500 Ways to Make Quintessential Dumb Mistakes. Fortunately, mistakes are a better teacher than success, and the grad student training me has patiently forgiven (and helped fix) all my mistakes and mishaps. (You da best, Kevin.)

4. I get to see why we even do research in the first place. All the “uhhh…what am I doing?” moments become clear when I see:

-I’m helping discover things that have never been done before.
-my labmates breaking world records in their research (okay—maybe it’s not official yet, but I’m proud).
-something that exists in the lab becoming a real thing…as in a company. Which leads me to the explanation of the pun in the title:




5. I KAir. KAir Battery LLC is a company founded by members of the Wu lab group. The business’s focus is the potassium-air battery, which was developed in our lab last year. KAir’s batteries cost half of the Department of Energy’s $150/kWh goal, return 98% of the energy they store, and have recyclable and non-toxic byproducts.



The KAir Battery team, right to left: Zhongjie Huang, Mingfu He, Xiaodi Ren, Damian Beauchamp, Kate Fisher, Xuanxuan Bi. Not pictured: Dr. Yiying Wu


KAir won the Ohio State Business Plan Competition in April as well as multiple prizes at the Rice Business Plan Competition—including the US Department of Energy’s Clean Energy Prize ($100,000). They also have been invited to the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition in Washington, D.C. in June.

Watching KAir progress from a successful a research project to a business that people—and the government!—believe in really shows me the reason for and power of research.

Watch the KAir pitch video at youtu.be/E5KkBGgRoNQ

Like the KAir Facebook page and find out more at facebook.com/KAirBattery 




Thanks to Kevin Click, Damian Beauchamp, and Bartha Visual.

Advice, Author, On-campus work, Research, Student Life, The Future

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