Aadith Moorthy, a junior majoring in materials science and computer science, has been selected to receive a Goldwater Scholarship for the 2017–18 academic year.
The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program awards scholarships to college sophomores or juniors who intend to pursue research careers in science, mathematics, and engineering.
Moorthy, who hails from Palm Harbor, Florida, was one of 240 students chosen this year from a pool of 1,286 nominees. The scholarships, which were established by Congress in 1986 to honor the late Senator Barry Goldwater, cover the cost of tuition, other fees, books, and room and board for one or two academic years.
Moorthy studies in the lab of Brent Fultz, the Barbara and Stanley R. Rawn, Jr., Professor of Materials Science and Applied Physics, researching ways to improve ability of graphene to store hydrogen fuel.
Fuel cell vehicles currently on the market rely on pressurized tanks to store their hydrogen supply, which presents safety concerns because of the high pressures needed to store enough fuel to power a vehicle through a commute. Graphene, a material consisting of carbon atoms arranged in chicken wire-like sheets or tubes, could present a solution because it has the ability to store hydrogen through adsorption—a process in which hydrogen molecules cling to the graphene's surface without the need for high pressures. By combining many layers or tubules of graphene, it may be possible to store enough hydrogen to power a car. Moorthy is focused on optimizing graphene's properties for such an application.
Moorthy is also the founder and chief executive officer of ConserWater, a startup that uses artificial intelligence programs he developed to create efficient irrigation plans for farmers.
This scholarship is not Moorthy's first national honor: in 2010, at the age of 13, he won the National Geographic Bee. At the age of 16, he correctly answered every question on the AP Calculus exam, becoming one of only 11 people in the world to do so that year.
Moorthy plans to attend graduate school after Caltech and hopes to pursue research on energy efficiency, energy storage, and water resources.
"These are some of the technologies humanity needs the most today," he says. "Water resources are intricately linked with energy too—using less water means more energy saved. For example, a great percentage of California's energy is spent just moving water, either from deep underground, or just around the state."
He credits the Institute for providing him with the opportunities that made him competitive and enabled him to be selected as a Goldwater Scholar.
"Everyone says attending Caltech is like drinking from a firehose—and that's pretty true," he says. "It's given me a very strong background in materials research and computer science, especially being able to take graduate level courses."
Phillip Liu, a junior studying bioengineering, was awarded an Honorable Mention this year by the Goldwater Foundation.