September 20, 2011

Sandra Johansson, currently pursuing a master’s degree in engineering at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, spent 10 weeks performing cutting edge research on atomically precise metal catalysts as an intern for LSU’s Gordon A. and Mary Cain Department of Chemical Engineering.

Johansson received a scholarship to pursue her summer internship from the Swedish Committee for Chemical U.S. Travel program, which aims to give students the opportunity to work with interesting tasks that promote an understanding of chemistry and biotechnology in practice.

“It was a great experience,” Johansson said. “I liked the interdisciplinary and collaborative nature of my work at LSU. It is good to try to connect the theoretical computational work with the more practical lab work.”

Johansson’s research is part of the ongoing research collaboration with computational scientist Dr. David Bruce at Clemson. The interdisciplinary work falls in line with the mission of LSU’s Center for Atomic Level Catalyst Design, a multi-million-dollar U.S. Department of Energy Energy Frontier Research Center that seeks to produce substances that ‘speed up’ chemical reactions of importance for our energy future.

Johansson’s research, related to tiny particles that speed up the conversion of toxic carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide may have applications in cleaning automotive exhaust, bridged both experimental and computational research components.

"The research in which Ms. Johansson took part will help develop clean, affordable energy by providing tools to make materials that are essential for energy-related processes," said James Spivey, professor, Gordon A. and Mary Cain Department of Chemical Engineering, and director, LSU Center for Atomic Level Catalyst Design.

Johansson enjoyed having the opportunity to gain hands-on research experience during her internship. “The practical lab work has also been a good experience,” Johansson said. “It seems that students do more research and lab work at LSU. In my master’s degree program, I have barely done any lab work.” Johansson has not yet had the opportunity to take research-intensive project courses in Sweden.

While Johansson came to LSU in order to gain experience in practical, hands-on research, her visit to LSU wasn’t all work and no play. She spent two weeks touring the U.S. with family who also visited, traveling to New Orleans, Destin, Fla., and Orange Beach, Ala.

“I like seafood very much, which I certainly could find in Louisiana!” she added. An avid floorball, volleyball and soccer player, Johansson also enjoyed regular trips the University Recreational Center.

However, Johansson’s favorite Louisiana experience was the people. “Everyone here was very kind and open.”

When asked if she would recommend the program to her colleagues, Johansson responded, “Yes. Definitely.”

For more information about LSU’s Center for Atomic Level Catalyst Design, click here.


Article written by Paige Brown, communications graduate student worker. For more information, contact Cassie Arceneaux, College of Engineering, or (225) 578-0092.

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