The Tirrell Award for Distinction in Undergraduate Research is made annually by the College of Engineering in honor of Matthew Tirrell, former Dean of the College, to recognize graduating seniors who have shown excellence and promise as a researcher during their academic career. This year’s award recipient is Bethany Letierre. Bethany is a mechanical engineering major who has participated in several research experiences during her studies at UCSB. She has worked in the research programs of Professors Sumita Pennathur, Galen Stucky, and Ram Seshadri.
Bethany's nomination was based largely on her work with visiting scientist Dr. Christina Birkel and was instrumental in several papers that came out of the research programs led by Professors Stucky, Seshadri, and Tresa Pollock of the Materials Science Department. This work addressed nano structured thermoelectric materials--materials that directly convert temperature gradients into electrical potentials. Bethany learned to make a particular class of them, the half-Heusler Titanium-Nickel-Tin, and then, in collaboration with, and under the guidance of Dr. Birkel, learned to manipulate the nanostructure via various processing methods in order to reduce the thermal conductivity. Bethany proved to be a very quick learner at a very early stage, and she combined this with an incredible sense of responsibility and an ability to work very hard in the lab, all the while maintaining a high GPA. Perhaps the best evidence of Bethany’s development is here is that she will pursue a Ph.D. program in mechanical engineering at MIT.