Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

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Malcolm Porterfield

Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering

Hometown: Albany, New York

Faculty Advisor: Diana-Andra Borca-Tasciuc                   


Describe your graduate research and its purpose/applications.

Right now I am using a molecular dynamics simulator called LAMMPS to examine the viability of thermal to electrostatic energy conversion enabled by phase change of a dielectric. When implemented into a capacitor, phase change of the dielectric initiated by the waste heat from a thermodynamic cycle would result in increasing the potential across an initially charged, then electrically isolated, capacitor. This increase in the potential can be harvested to produce usable energy, converting the waste heat into useful heat.


What made you decide to attend Rensselaer?

Being one of the top engineering schools in the country and being located practically in my backyard made my decision to attend Rensselaer rather easy. It is also worth mentioning that the articulation agreement between RPI and Hudson Valley Community College (where I completed my first two years of college as an undergraduate student) made the transition into RPI as an undergraduate student practically seamless, thus encouraging me to stay for graduate school.


What are your plans following graduation?

For the past two summers I have been an intern at Los Alamos National Lab and if things for me continue on their current trajectory, working at Los Alamos or any other lab within the Department of Energy complex after graduation appears to be my next move.


What has been the most surprising thing about your time at RPI?

Since I have been at RPI what has surprised me the most has been the ability to participate in events outside of academics. I was a member of the Track and Field team at RPI for three years and I had a blast! I got to decompress from school work, make several good friends and I was pleasantly surprised that I had the time for it.


What is your favorite aspect of community life at RPI?

There are a litany of clubs and activities to participate in at RPI and on the off chance that you do not find a club, you can make one up! There is definitely something for everyone.


What is your favorite thing about living in the Capital region?

Originally being from the Capital region, the Capital region is not as congested as New York City, but it is also not a quiet rural area. Tt is right in the middle with a great amount of things to do as well as pease and space.