QI Student Innovator Natalie Toon and Her Love of the Outdoors
QI encourages the curiosity of student innovators. We offer training programs that give students the chance to conduct research, prototype technologies and test those technologies in the field. Meet one of our students: Natalie Toon, a third year undergraduate majoring in environmental engineering.
Tucked into her sleeping bag in a tent in Carpinteria, California, Natalie Toon is immersed in her favorite surroundings — the outdoors. Since she was a young child, she remembers hiking, camping and making trips to the beach. As she grew up, her love for the outdoors grew alongside her knowledge of environmental issues.
Natalie hopes to contribute to the push for renewable energy and work in the field of renewable energy through energy system designs. Her interests include nuclear power and solar energy. As a lab assistant at the Qualcomm Institute’s Nano3 facility, Natalie trains users including UCSD alumni and industry professionals to use the scanning electron microscope (S.E.M.) for their research.
“My job at Nano3 has given me a lot of insight into the research world and made me a lot more interested in that side of things than I initially thought I would be,” Natalie said.
The S.E.M. scans a specimen with a beam of electrons to form an image. Because electrons have shorter wavelengths, the resolution of the image is higher than images from light microscopes. Natalie likes getting to work with a variety of people and learn about their research. She also performs service work for companies that don’t want to operate the S.E.M. on their own by taking images of their samples and collecting data on the samples to give to the companies.
Out of everything that she does at Nano3, Natalie is most excited about the outreach program, which aims to reach out to students K-12 and community classes to have them remotely control S.E.M.’s and get students more exposure in the field of nanotechnology. She hopes to inspire students from schools with limited resources to pursue a career in the field of STEM. Outside of Nano3, Natalie continues her passion to improve the environment through the organization Engineers for a Sustainable World.
Her quick tips on sustainability:
- Carry a small reusable bag inside your purse or backpack just in case you end up shopping.
- Eat more vegetarian and vegan meals when you can. Each one goes a long way for the environment.
Despite the controversies and difficulties surrounding environmentalism and climate change, Natalie remains passionate about her field of interest.
“It can be a little bit disheartening to learn about issues like climate change, and just knowing the state everything is in,” Natalie said. “But I think just being on a campus that’s so research-based and meeting so many different people, I just feel very positive for the future. I think a lot of people are passionate about what they’re doing, including myself, and really want to make a difference for all of these things that are going on in the world.”