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Alla Zamarayeva

College: City College
Awards: Goldwater Scholarship, 2013

Going with the Flow

Alla Zamarayeva had a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Vienna-Kiev when she arrived at City College, but she had come to the United States from Ukraine to become a chemical engineer and was willing to start over.

Judging by her receipt of a federally funded 2013 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship in her junior year, that was a good decision.

She received one of only 272 scholarships awarded to college juniors and seniors around the country to encourage research careers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields; faculty members nominated 1,107 applicants for this highly competitive scholarship. The scholarship covers up to $7,500 a year in undergraduate tuition, fees, books and room and board, with seniors getting one year of support and juniors two years.

Fluent in English, she plunged into research at City College, a school she had chosen for its quality engineering program and affordability. Since March 2011, she has been a Partnership for Research and Education in Materials Fellow. She has contributed to two journal articles on stretchable and flexible alkaline batteries and three research projects on batteries for hybrid electric propulsion systems.

The battery work took place during the four semesters she was an undergraduate research assistant at the CUNY Energy Institute. She worked under the guidance of assistant professor Dan Steingart, who is now at Princeton University. Zamarayeva intends to spend the summer of 2013 with him at Princeton, working on novel batteries or carbon-free energy devices, thanks to a federally funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates grant.

At City College, she studies at the Benjamin Levich Institute for Physicochemical Hydrodynamics with chemical engineering professor Jeff Morris, who also is principal investigator of the Complex Fluids Group. Her current research examines the effect of capillary bridges on suspension rheology.

Suspension rheology is the study of the flow of fluids containing suspended materials. Water molecules are attracted to one another and to molecules in solids, which explains why they can rise against gravity through capillary action, as is seen on the inside surface of a plastic straw that contains water. When small amounts of water are added to a suspension of solid particles in a fluid, capillary action can transform the water into a bridge, a process that can change the suspension into a gel, whose flow properties are dramatically different. Understanding how capillary bridges work has practical benefits, such as for pull-off adhesives, as well as for understanding why sand castles stick together.

Zamarayeva is the incoming president of the Lambda Chapter of Omega Chi Epsilon, the National Chemical Engineering Honors Society, and is a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, American Nuclear Society and Golden Key International Honour Society.

Volunteering with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, she has brought public middle-school students to City College laboratories in hopes of interesting them in science; many of them are from minority groups that are underrepresented in scientific fields.

Similarly, she volunteered in a U.S. Navy-sponsored underwater robotics competition for public school students.

“It was fun,” she says. “They had to learn to work in a team and present a poster about their robots. Teamwork is essential for engineers.”

Zamarayeva looks forward to moving on to a doctoral program and is uncertain whether she will seek a career in academia or industry.