Dana Byrne

Crown ’20, chemistry

Dana Byrne (Crown ’20, chemistry)

Dana Byrne is the kind of person who likes to get answers. So it was a natural fit for her to gravitate to chemistry as a field of study. 

“I’m a curious person,” she said. “I’ve always asked questions, and I want to know why things work the way they do.” 

The 21-year-old from San Jose has distinguished herself by making the Dean’s List for numerous quarters and maintaining an impressive 3.9 GPA. But she explains that she has good grades because she is an extremely hard worker in her classes. 

“I’m glad I’m being rewarded for it here,” she said. 

Science has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. Both her parents are engineers and she comes from a big family of scientists on her mother’s side. 

At UC Santa Cruz, she has been fortunate to work in chemistry faculty member Yat Li’s lab on a research project developing 3D-printed nanomaterials for energy storage devices. Byrne explained that her work consists of the synthesis, 3D printing, and testing of carbon-based electrodes for supercapacitors, known for their high-power density but typically lacking the long-term compact energy storage that can be provided by batteries. She is one of the few undergraduates who has been able to do this kind of work. 

“I have certainly developed a very high regard for Dana’s outstanding contributions to the lab research and her great potential as a scientist and teacher,” Li said. 

Byrne said she did the “dirty work” of testing and calculation while the graduate students in the lab did their own lab work. But she said she learned a lot. 

“The experience is totally invaluable—way better than I could have asked for,” Byrne said.

Byrne plans to pursue graduate study in chemistry at UC Berkeley this fall with the goal of earning a Ph.D. in five years. She is interested in optimizing materials to produce better technology and ultimately aims to work for a tech company. 

While she loves the Bay Area and would prefer to remain, she anticipates that that may be difficult because the area is so expensive. She thinks she may end up some day in Seattle or Texas to join booming tech companies there.