Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Maverick Chea

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Completing an MS in Chemical Engineering
Stanford University
Area of NIF: Target fabrication, particularly tents
Project: Optimization of Ultrathin Films

Tell us about your student internship experience.
I was first here two years ago, also working with tents. As a senior figuring out a direction for job prospects, I became interested in polymers. Here I am studying them in “real life.” I’ve found that it’s been a great hands-on experience.

What does your project focus on?
I am performing quality analysis on tents made in the clean room to determine whether they are strong enough to be used in the targets. I’m also testing fabrication variables—solvents and the molecular weight of polymers are the two main ones—to see how we can create thinner but stronger films. A 15 nanometer tent is going to be tested soon.   If an 8 nanometer tent gets tested in a target shot, I’ll have a sense of accomplishment because my efforts will have meant something for NIF.

What are the benefits of being an intern?
There’s a good balance between real science and putting something into use. The practicality of my work has been evident as I’ve been able to help in the transition towards thinner tents.  I like knowing that the work I created while here continues. A portion of my work was done by a full-time employee before I got here, and someone else will maintain it after I’m gone. The community at the Lab is also really nice. I get to talk to a wide range of people, and there have been great intern events throughout the summer.

Is it a challenge to talk about your work to people who have no previous insight into NIF?
I tell them I help create plastic films for nuclear fusion. Most are interested in how that is done, and this leads to some really good conversations.