Sean Snider, a science teacher at St. Mary’s School in Medford, won a grant to engage in a new project to study the design of longer-lasting solar panels. (Courtesy St. Mary’s School)
Sean Snider, a science teacher at St. Mary’s School in Medford, won a grant to engage in a new project to study the design of longer-lasting solar panels. (Courtesy St. Mary’s School)

MEDFORD — St. Mary’s School here announced April 2 that Sean Snider, a science teacher and alumni of the school, has won a $19,000 grant from the Murdock Trust’s Partners in Science program.

Snider and his partner, a professor at the University of Oregon, will be studying how to design longer-lasting solar panels. The project is a collaboration between the Solar Radiation Monitoring Lab at the University of Oregon and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Over the next two summers, Snider will be working with professors from the University of Oregon physics department to collect and analyze data from their monitoring stations in Eugene.

One problem with solar panels is that the same light they collect from the sun also destroys the panels over time. Snider and Peterson hope to find a solution.

“The sun emits light with many different wavelengths and energy. A rainbow is a good example of how water can cause these different wavelengths to separate into unique colors. Some of the types of light from the sun are hard to convert into energy, yet easily destroy the photovoltaic cells,” said Snider in a statement to the press. “The project intends to measure the intensity of light’s different wavelengths throughout the day to determine ways that solar panel designers can maximize the benefit from the ‘good’ light while minimizing the negative effects of the ‘bad’ light.”

Snider was inspired to pursue this project to join and share with his students.

“The ultimate goal of the Partners in Science program is to enable high school students to become involved in the higher-level research being performed within universities and major industries,” said Snider. The teacher adds that the project may provide the ability to establish the Rogue Valley’s only solar radiation monitoring station upon the St Mary’s campus.

“This will provide students the unique opportunity to apply their science knowledge and technical skills while actively contributing to the major scientific endeavors shaping our world’s future.”