CLARKS SUMMIT — Travelling alone to a foreign country to work in a science lab may not be how most college students would like to spend their summer breaks, but for one 2016 Abington Heights High School (AHHS) graduate, this was an opportunity not to miss.
Claire Traweek, 19, of Clarks Summit, spent this past summer completing an internship at MEPhI, a physics institute in Moscow, Russia.
“It was a really good experience – definitely something I would do again. I do want to go back to Russia at some point,” she said, adding she would especially like to visit Siberia.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) sophomore electrical engineering major scored the internship through the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) program. She spent 92 days in Russia, arriving in early June and returning home at the beginning of September.
At MEPhI, known for its research in nuclear physics, she interned in the nanotechnology department, working on gallium arsenide (GaAs) semiconductors.
“The’re looking at a new kind of semiconductor material,” she said. “In your computer there are semiconductors, and they’re made of mostly doped silicon. The advantage gallium arsenide has over silicon semiconductors is, if you can get them to work, they could work at frequencies much higher than silicon. Which means that your computer will run a lot faster.”
Each day at MEPhI was a new adventure, different from the last.
“There were days I went into different parts of the lab and looked at different equipment (and) there were days I went to the electrical engineering department and soldered stuff,” Traweek said.
“I really enjoyed seeing Russia, speaking Russian and meeting people,” she said when asked what she liked most about the trip. “Being able to practice my Russian was a big part of it; I got a lot better.”
Traweek studied the language in eighth through 12th grades at AHHS with teacher Amy Wojcik. She said she is not yet fluent in the language, but knows enough to avoid “getting lost.”
Although this was Traweek’s first time in Russia, it was not her first trip outside the United States. As a high school sophomore, she spent her life’s savings to travel to Germany and France to visit a French friend, who had been an Abington Heights foreign exchange student.
The daughter of Paula and Brian Traweek, of Clarks Summit, Traweek has three younger brothers – Adam, Sam and David – all of whom attend school at Abington Heights.
She credits her choice of college major to her experiences on the Abington Heights Science Olympiad team.
“I always liked computers and programming and, through Science Olympiad, I got more into building electronics,” she said.
Although unsure of exactly what she wants to do after college, she is considering graduate school.