Externship Report: Adam Martinez

Natalie Rogers February 16, 2016

The Externship Program is a research exchange program that allows New Mexico graduate students (with an existing assistantship) to spend a semester or summer doing research at a partnering New Mexico university or research facility. This report is from New Mexico Tech student Adam Martinez about his externship in California at Trevi Systems.

The externship program provided by NM EPSCoR is an excellent opportunity for networking, gaining real life experience, as well as personal and professional growth. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a company in California, Trevi Systems, inc. Trevi Systems specializes in desalination techniques via forward osmosis using a temperature sensitive polymer as a draw solution. At first, I was hesitant, as I had never actually worked for an R&D company. My first day, I was welcomed and given an in depth tour of their facility. I was able to jump right in and test membranes for water flux and salt rejection. My first day was very insightful, and encouraging for the experience I was about to gain.

Left: Hollow-fiber membrane spinning line; Center: Water lab membrane testing fixture; Right: Membrane lab testing fixture

I worked with the membrane development team. Over the course of ten weeks, I was given responsibilities as though I were legitimately part of the team, not just an intern. I actively participated in research group meetings geared towards advancement and progress. I aided them in hollow fiber spinning, and also taking those fibers and setting them up for testing. This required thorough inspection of the membranes, and potting them in housings. I was tasked with rheological studies of the dope solution we use for fiber spinning, as well as various polymer mixtures used in other processes. I was able to establish baselines for various dope solutions. This will aide Trevi’s membrane team in quality control, and hollow fiber fabrication. As for membrane testing, I tested membranes for water flux and salt rejection under various conditions, and reported all my results within my group. I was also given the responsibility of using what we had available to determine the thermodynamic properties of different polymer mixtures.

Left: Testing the dope solution viscosity; Center: Testing the heat of mixing of a polymer solution; Right: Potting a membrane for water flux and salt rejection testing

This data was to be used in a model being developed for pilot plants Trevi was planning on constructing in the near future. For this project, I was given the opportunity to design, construct, troubleshoot, and calibrate a device. The device required a lot of time to properly get up and running, but I was able to collect this data and provide a report for their use. I also aided in the design of a heater used in the fiber spinning line, and was able to see its implementation in the process. Trevi Systems provided me with an invaluable experience, and I will take this experience and utilize it to strengthen my skills and abilities in future endeavors I take.

Working at Trevi was an incredible experience. I genuinely felt as though I were part of a team working towards a common goal. I enjoyed every day on the job, and always found my daily regime both challenging and interesting. Everyone within Trevi loves sharing ideas, and are very passionate about what they do. I was very excited to see a real world application for the research I had performed in the osmotic power group. I found every aspect of this experience worthwhile, and I encourage others to pursue opportunities like this through NM EPSCoR and their externship program.