Making Graphene Composites Thanks to URI

Trupti I’m Trupti Mahendrakar from Bangalore, India. Exploring and innovating is my passion. I joined Riddle in Fall 2015. Since then till now, I was encouraged and motivated to do what I like. Professor’s here are so helpful. The entire institution makes me feel at home. My first semester here, I came up with an idea of making Graphene based composites. Later, I got to know that the University encourages and funds student researches through Ignite or Undergraduate Research Institute (URI). All I had to do was to find a Professor who can help me with my project and find a group of people who are interested. Thus, I started Alternate Composite Team (ACT).

Here’s a little information about Graphene. It is a new material discovered in 2004. It is known for its extraordinary chemical and physical properties. Also, it is an allotrope of carbon. Embry-Riddle made is possible for me to work on this amazing material and pursue my goal in making graphene based composites for aircrafts and rockets. To know more about my project, feel free to email me at

Here are some pictures of me and my team working. It may not look fun but remember “Appearance can be deceptive.” So come on over and try it yourself.


Trupti 3

Engineering skills!

Final product of the first part of ACT

Final product of the first part of ACT



LIGO Proved Gravitational Waves Exist and I Helped!

Sophia interferometers (002)Well the cat’s out of the bag: the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory Collaboration, or the LIGO Collaboration, has detected and confirmed the existence of gravitational waves.  Finally, I don’t have to giggle to myself as my friends ask why I am doing research on a project that had such a small chance of success.  Finally, I don’t have to keep secret about one of the biggest discoveries in the modern science, something I have known about since September when it was detected.  It is an exciting time, not just to see the amazing results of a project that I am a small, insignificant part of, but also because that means that a completely new field of research has just opened up, gravitational wave astronomy.

Gravitational wave

Gravitational wave

First, let me explain a bit about gravitational waves, if you haven’t already seen the countless videos.  Gravitational waves were first predicted by Einstein in 1916 when he formulated the idea of general relativity.





In essence, they are the perturbations, or ripples, in the fabric of space and time.  They are emitted from massive systems, like coalescing two black holes converging and merging into one, which is actually what LIGO detected, or giant cataclysms like supernovae.  They are a confirmation of a theory we have been using for a century, but they are also a new tool we can use to probe the universe.  As the comparison goes, “As Galileo’s telescope opened our eyes to the universe, gravitational waves have opened our ears.”

The best part is that I can be a part of the research during this era of discovery, even though I am only an undergraduate student.  Embry-Riddle is a host to many esteemed faculty that do research and encourage their students to do research, and there is an entire department dedicated to student research in the form of the Undergraduate Research Institute run by Dr. Anne Boettcher.  In fact, three professors in the physics department – Dr. Michele Zanolin, Dr. Brennan Hughey, and Dr. Andri Gretarsson – are involved in the LIGO experiment, and actually are the only scientists in the whole Four Corners area (Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado) that are pursuing this research.

Research for undergraduate students is incredibly important, but also highly demanding.  I work ten hours a week, reading papers on high-level statistics, writing proofs, learning to code, and analyzing data.  It requires a lot of concentration and persistence, especially since I have had to learn a completely new set of skills and knowledge.  And it means that as a student, I have to take initiative and follow through on something I am not receiving a grade for.  But in the end, I don’t regret it, since I was able to sit in the conference room at 8:30 am and watch the live press release of something amazing.  Since I was able to be a part of something bigger than I was.  Since I have learned so much about something so fascinating that otherwise I would have known nothing about.  And in the end, we discovered gravitational waves!Sophia

Sophia Schwalbe is a Junior in Space Physics, in Air Force ROTC and the Honors Program, and has participated in research with LIGO.

Fall 2015. Senior Year. Capstone. Yes!

Hey there fellow students/potential students here’s an update on how my first month back has been! So, as you know, I am a senior in Aerospace Engineering and this semester I am working on the Preliminary Aircraft Design course of my Capstone Project. It has been pretty fun so far but is definitely hard. The courses you take prior to the capstone do help out a lot in your preparation for designing an entire aircraft from scratch. But really how cool is that — an entire aircraft from scratch!

I am also continuing to pursue the research I was working on over the summer. Hopefully, the data processing will allow us to write a paper on the research. If we are able to write it then I am hoping that the project will help me in my professional career in the Air Force.

Yes, I am in ROTC here and it rocks!!ROTC I am in my fourth year and I have the position of female cadet retention in the detachment. It is super fun because I get to meet cool female cadets, encourage, advise, and PT with them!

That’s pretty much all that I’ve been up to this semester so far, keep checking my blog for more updates, fun, facts, and useful info! If you have any questions for me please feel free to comment below 🙂