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Why Science?

Carlos Andres Polanco

ORNL is proud of its role in fostering the next generation of scientists and engineers. We bring in talented young researchers, team them with accomplished scientists and engineers, and put them to work at the lab’s one-of-a-kind facilities. The result is research that makes us proud and prepares them for distinguished careers.

We asked some of these young researchers why they chose a career in science, what they are working on at ORNL, and where they would like to go with their careers.

Carlos Andres Polanco

Postdoc, Materials Science and Technology Division
Ph.D., Electrical Engineering, University of Virginia
Hometown: Bogota, Colombia

What are you working on at ORNL?

My work focuses on understanding and modeling how thermal energy flows across interfaces and crystalline materials with defects. Combining the intuition gained with predictive models—free from fitting parameters—I design novel materials with targeted thermal properties to enhance the performance of devices for energy applications.

What would you like to do in your career?

I want to push the boundaries of our fundamental understanding of the motion of thermal energy and use that new knowledge to engineer the next generation of energy solutions—that is, materials and devices that can better harvest, dissipate or control thermal energy. Thermal energy is abundant but challenging to control! 

Why did you choose a career in science?

Since I was a kid, I wanted to understand how “magic” devices work—how a light bulb shines, how a plane flies, how a computer runs a program. This curiosity turned into personal satisfaction as my first physics classes started uncovering the tricks.