PNNL Tag

By Maegan Murray

Before the age of 20, Gordan Gavric was already working on technology that continues to change the world of security.

Gavric started as an electrical engineering intern at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in the High School Student Research Internship program the summer of his high school junior year working for the Atom Probe group in (define EMSL). Now a junior at Washington State University Tri-Cities, Gavric has transitioned into working in 30784625972_0822818cec_zthe Engineering Development Lab at PNNL, where he works with the creators of the millimeter wave imaging technologies used in body scanners that are deployed in airports across the world.
“It’s been pretty amazing,” Gavric said. “How many other interns get to work on this stuff? I started with PNNL my freshman year and I’ve been with them ever since. I’ve done everything from Python language programming, to circuit development, to building up and testing antennas using some very expensive, very cool pieces of hardware.”

The opportunities he was presented with through PNNL were the primary reason why he chose to attend Washington State University Tri-Cities.

“I think it was probably the best thing I could have done in terms of school and work,” he said. “I was interested in another university because their electrical engineering program was more based in radio and signal processing. But since then, I’ve taken classes here that are more oriented toward digital signal processing. I’ve received one of the best educations because I’m learning from the people that are actually doing it and they do it well.”

30599606060_48bf9994ca_zThrough his current position at PNNL, Gavric is using Python to develop a software application for nuclear security. He developed what is called a graphical user interface, or a GUI, that allows engineers to tweak parameters in real-time to better set instruments to protect a nuclear source. He is also working with millimeter wave antennas that are used in airport and security body scanners.

“Seeing some of crazy concepts behind it and the engineering required to develop that technology and the creativity that was facilitated has been incredible,” he said. “It was not like we were just designing circuits. You got the sense that you could be really creative in the way you solve the big problems in the world with engineering. It has been amazing to see that type of things being done right here in Richland.”

Gavric said his position uniquely allows him to be exposed to engineering concepts and materials first at PNNL, which he then learns about in detail at WSU Tri-Cities.

“Last summer, I was tasked with building a resonant filter and I spent close to two days figuring out everything I could about it at PNNL,” he said. “Then today, in electronics class, we talked about a similar design and learned how to apply it a little differently. I get to first see it applied and then learn more about it. It definitely enriches me because I’m exposed in a real-world experience and then I dive into the details of it in class.”

Gavric said the combination of his WSU Tri-Cities education and his real-world experience at PNNL has poised him with unique experiences that he will continue to use throughout his career in engineering.

“I like that everything correlates really well,” he said. “Everything I learn in class, I see at my job. My teammates at PNNL are like, ‘Have you learned about x? Oh, you learned it last week, OK cool.’ It helps me bond with them.”30268543804_0d4bd8094a_z

Gavric said he has also applied his experience at PNNL and what he is learning in the classroom at WSU Tri-Cities for external projects and leadership opportunities at the university. He and a couple of classmates started the robotics club on campus. He also is the chief justice for the Associated Students of Washington State University where he oversees the student government’s bylaws and judicial procedure.

“One of my favorite things about WSU and PNNL are the opportunities you are presented with,” he said. “WSU Tri-Cities is one of those places where if you have a will to do something, like starting an engineering club, you can. You can make the most out of anything. At PNNL, I’ve been provided with opportunities to advance in my career, like learning new engineering concepts and furthering my skillset.”

Plus, three of the five people on his team at PNNL either taught at or attended WSU Tri-Cities.

“I’m surrounded by fellow alumni,” he said. “It’s been pretty great.”

Interested in a career in electrical engineering? Visit https://tricities.wsu.edu/engineering/.

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

elmar-villota
Elmar Villota

RICHLAND, Wash. – In Elmar Villota’s home country of the Philippines, as much as 15 percent of households do not have electricity. Villota, a doctoral student in biological systems engineering at Washington State University Tri-Cities, is motivated to close that gap with renewable energy.

“A simple light bulb could make a world of difference,” he said. “Without a sustainable source of electricity, students can’t have light or read comfortably at night. Imagine how much knowledge they would miss.”

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Elmar Villota, left, educates
Filipino residents on basic
maintenance and
troubleshooting for an
energy device.

With a population of more than 100 million scattered across more than 7,100 islands, the Philippines faces the challenge of extending power to everyone, he said.

“In the Philippines, we are end users in terms of technology,” Villota said. “Historically, we have purchased technology rather than making or innovating it ourselves for our own use.”

Renewable energy, he added, could help address the nation’s sustainable energy concerns and stimulate technological growth.

Turning biomass into fuel, other products

As part of the Engineering and Research Development for Technology scholarship program, which is offered to all Filipino engineers by the Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology, Villota is working toward his doctorate at WSU Tri-Cities.

elmar-villota-with-residents-web
Elmar Villota with Filipino residents.

He is studying how to convert second-generation biomass, such as agricultural waste or woody crops, to biofuels and other useful products, such as bio-based polymers and chemicals. Working under WSU associate professor Bin Yang, Villota mainly is focused on enzymatic hydrolysis, a process that uses bacteria and fungi to break down plant cell walls to sugar, which is turned into fuel.

Villota has written a book chapter on the subject in cooperation with Yang and Ziyu Dai, a senior scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). He is also working with Rongchun Shen, a visiting scholar from China, on techno-economic assessment regarding methods for converting lignin—structural polymers in plants—into useful, high-value products like bioplastics.

Bioproducts lab, PNNL draw scholar

Villota was attracted to WSU Tri-Cities because of its national reputation for excellence in renewable energy research and its partnership with PNNL, a leading national innovator in the renewable energy sector.

elmar-villota-in-wsu-tri-cities-lab-web
Elmar Villota in a BSEL lab at WSU Tri-Cities.

“WSU is one of the best schools for renewable energy because of the WSU Tri-Cities’ Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory and the university’s relationship with PNNL,” he said. “That is what really encouraged me to go here.”

He also contributes to advancing Filipino renewable energy through his home university, serving as a lecturer at Central Luzon State University. He also is a technical expert in renewable energy for the university’s Affiliated Renewable Energy Center and Phil-Sino Center for Agricultural Technology.

Villota said he is hopeful that thousands of fellow Filipinos will benefit from his work, which could lead to basic electrification and light and even broader impacts.

“Through this experience, I hope to extend students’ learning capabilities, and in turn, extend the potential for them to make a difference in the world,” he said.

 

 

Contacts:

Elmar Villota, WSU Tri-Cities doctoral student, elmar.villota@wsu.edu
Bin Yang, WSU Tri-Cities biological systems engineering, 509-372-7640,binyang@tricity.wsu.edu
Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations, 509-372-7333,maegan.murray@tricity.wsu.edu