Daniela Rivera Mirabal placed first in the AIChE Poster Competition in the Materials Engineering & Sciences IV Category during the 2020 Undergraduate Student Conference hosted by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). The University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) undergraduate researchers presented work that they did while participating in the Future Leaders in Advanced Materials (FLAM) Program, which is offered through UCSB's Materials Research Laboratory (MRL). The program allows science and engineering students from UCSB and other universities to conduct summer research projects, while working closely with graduate students, who serve as mentors, and faculty sponsors. Daniela Rivera Mirabel is a senior chemical engineering major at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez.
Rivera Mirabal started her research collaboration with UCSB in June 2020 as a FLAM intern. Sponsored by UCSB chemical engineering Professor M. Scott Shell, the John Meyers Founder's Chair of Chemical Engineering, and mentored by Sally Jiao, a chemical engineering PhD student, Rivera Mirabal continued her research project virtually during Fall 2020. Her award-winning presentation, "Molecular Dynamics Simulation of Polypeptoids Reveal the Effects of Chemistry and Topology on Local Water Behavior," discussed finding out how variations in realistic surfaces can impact local water behavior, The results were obtained from computer simulations she conducted to better understand the molecular dynamics and behavior of water near polypeptoids, which are non-natural, sequence-specific polymers that offer the opportunity to probe the effect of sequence on functional properties. She looked into the impact that a polypeptoid's shape and chemical composition, such as whether it tends to attract or repel water, can have on the movement and arrangement of water.