EastBay Today

Posted December 11, 2017

Cal State East Bay Student Makes Cover of The Journal of Chemical Physics

Through Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Elizabeth Sangalang has been researching ‘hydrogen getters’

Senior Elizabeth Sangalang will be credited as second author alongside researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on the cover of The Journal of Chemical Physics (vol. 149, issue 16).
Garvin Tso

It’s not every day an undergraduate student’s name appears alongside government researchers in a scientific journal, but for Cal State East Bay’s Elizabeth Sangalang, it’s all part of the journey she’s embarked on toward a career in medicine.  

Sangalang, whose older brother and sister are Pioneer alumni, has been working in the Material Science Division at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as a paid intern for the past two summers, and will soon be credited as second author on the cover of The Journal of Chemical Physics. She’ll also be applying to medical school this spring and spending a 2018-19 gap year at LLNL as well.

“Going into an environment like LLNL — it’s very professional, it’s a government lab — it was very intimidating at first, but to know that I have gained the skills and capabilities [I needed] from Cal State East Bay, and to be able to apply those to my internship at the lab was really rewarding,” Sangalang said. “I’m really just trying to take each and every aspect of my experiences as a college student and put them toward becoming the best doctor I can be.”  

Although the research she’s been doing doesn’t specifically apply to her hopes of working in pediatrics or as an OBGYN, her background in chemistry is what led Sangalang’s mentor, research scientist Long N. Dinh, Ph.D., to assign her work on “hydrogen getters” — carbon pellets that absorb free-floating hydrogen within electronics components, semiconductors and nuclear storage systems. The point of the research? To establish for how long and under what circumstances (pressure, heat) the pellets can last, as they prevent corrosion and even guard against potential explosion hazards.

The outcome of the study was deemed cover-worthy due to LLNL’s new definition for those optimal conditions (“below 175 degrees Fahrenheit, if done in a good vacuum”) and discovery of a “previously underappreciated effect from carbon-hydrogen bonds.”

Sangalang’s work has been key to the results.

“I am very impressed with the speed at which Elizabeth absorbs graduate and even postdoctoral-level knowledge in physical chemistry,” Dinh said. “Elizabeth’s contribution to the findings of this project includes not only hands-on experiments but also data analysis. [She] has the work ethic, research attitude and competency of a graduate student.”

And it’s only one of the many things Sangalang is dedicating her time while prepping for graduation in June. She is a part of the University Honors program, has been a peer mentor at Cal State East Bay for the last few years and is involved with the university’s Global Medical and Dental Brigades, traveling throughout Central America to set up pop-up clinics for those in need.

“Since my parents are nurses, I initially inherited the heart and passion for medicine from them, but it was not until attending Cal State East Bay that I realized that becoming a doctor is my true calling,” Sangalang said. “Whether explaining emotional intelligence in front of a classroom of fellow students or teaching a child in Panama how to properly brush their teeth, this campus has given me all these opportunities to realize that being a doctor is in my veins. And I love the diversity and emphasis on social justice here — me being a Filipino woman and being very underrepresented in medicine, I want to be that voice and be able to advocate for patients.”