2014: A year in review

I know it seems like I say this a lot, but I really am going to make a better effort of updating this blog, but here we are again with a new blog post. Thanks for being patient, I hope to have some more technical blog posts up soon.

Right now, I am sitting here a bit immobilized as I just had both carpel tunnel release and ulnar nerve release to maintain functionality of my hand. What better way to spend the day than to update this blog on what I got up to this last year. So here is a month by month break down of what I was up to.


January 2014 was the lost month. I say that because at the end of the month I took the qualifying exams for the PhD program in Mechanical Engineering at MIT. This test is a grueling 3 day test comprised of 3 subject area presentations with 1 research presentation. Essentially you get 30 minutes to solve a problem in each of the 3 subject areas then 30 minutes to present your solution to a room of MIT professors who are experts in the field you are presenting. It is extremely stressful.

My days went like so: Get to campus by 8, workout the problems for the day, meet up with my group at 11, work until 5ish on problems, then head home and study with my roommate until approximately 11. Rinse and repeat the next day.

It paid off as I was extremely prepared for the tests themselves. The three sections I took were:

Fluids: This test was great as I had Dr. Gareth McKinley in the room when presenting. It was a problem on a macroscopic ball attached to the bottom of a pool by a spring, then released. I was unable to fully do the problem as it was a surface tension problem in the second half, but was able to impress upon them that I was able to approach the problem and solve it with more time.

Heat Transfer: This group was my most problematic as I had Dr. Gang Chen in the room. While I really like Dr. Chen, he fell asleep before I even started. It was simply a problem with a light bulb, having to solve for the heat flux from the filament inside to the surroundings. Overall it was easy as they just wanted the basics.

Micro/Nano: This test is different than the previous two; you have to give a presentation on one of three papers that they give you. I presented on laser ablation modeling with MD, a really poor method for modeling it. I dont remember much except for Dr. Yang Shao-Horn really threw me off my game, at one point laughing out loud during my presentation.

The final day was a research presentation, which was just on the work that I had completed up to that point in my SM. The next day I got an email from my adviser without a subject, and only the sentence ‘CONGRATS!!!!!’ in the body. I became her first student to take and pass the qualifying exams at MIT. 0/10, would not do again.


This month was pretty chill as I just got into the groove of taking classes. I took Dr. Jeff Grossman’s Molecular Modeling course, all about modeling stuff on the Micro, Nano, and Atomic Scale. It was a great course and a welcome change to the 8 hours/day studying habits.


Something you may not know about me is that March is my favorite month. If you were to ask me why, I would respond: MARCH MADNESS with three exclamation points. It is a magical time of the year and way better than Christmas.

The month started off with me at the APS March meeting in Denver. This was my first time to Denver, and I really liked the city, but hated the airport. Who puts an airport ~45 minutes from the city? Such a bad design.

I was there until Friday of the conference and gave my first research presentation to a mostly empty ballroom. While it was a great experience, always try to get your presentations on the first couple days of the conference as an echo is not a great way to give a presentation.

I left Denver to go down to San Diego to see my family and best buddy, Nicholas Furey. We got to really hang out and chill, which was a nice reward for passing quals. I also got to go to the University of New Mexico v San Diego State game at Viejas for the Mountain West Conference regular season championship. It was amazing, and you can relive it here: http://youtu.be/KYuG1P1HMeY 

Then I followed the Aztecs to Vegas and got to hang out with all my Show friends for 4 days of good fun. Unfortunately the Aztecs did not take home the conference crown, but it was a great experience and I loved seeing my friends after a two year hiatus.


Pretty much the same as February. I got an interesting email to apply to be the USA representative for the upcoming Clean Energy Ministerial in Seoul. I applied to it not really expecting much to come of it. For those of you still paying attention, that is called foreshadowing.


May was another whirlwind of a month. My brother Dillon Lentz was graduating and I was really excited to see him be the second Lentz to get his degree. He graduated from Norther Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. I was extremely proud of him as the life he has gone through is truely amazing. However, remember that little thing in Seoul that I applied for? I got accepted.

So I flew from Pheonix to LAX to Seoul to be the Student Representative of the United States. I was in Seoul for a total of two days, which was insane. I get to the airport and promptly lose my passport, which led to the most stressful 45 minute bus ride of my life. Luckily Korea is so safe that someone found it and turned it into airport security. Where else would that ever happen at?

So I co-chaired this conference with the Korean student representative. We lead an idea generating conference for making an island off the coast of Korea carbon neutral, then I had the pleasure of presenting it to all the energy ministers from around the world. Quite the experience.

Levi @ CEM2014
The Clean Energy Ministerial

However, Korea would only fly me to and from the same location; since I left Pheonix, they tried to send me back to Pheonix, which is considered cruel and unusual punishment by the Geneva Convention. Instead I deplaned at LAX and took a train down to San Diego to see my brother Kyle Brooks graduate from SDSU. Quite the day for the Brooks-Lentz household as we went 4/4 for kids with college degrees.

I think I will remember Dillon and Kyle graduating with much more fondness than my adventures in Korea.


It was a pretty uneventful month. I graduated with my SM in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, but my family didn’t come out. So just another day in the life of a grad student.


July saw me back in LA for the IPAM conference on DFT. It was a super interesting 2 week conference at UCLA. It was a crazy week for me as a huge water main broke on campus and flooded most of campus, while destroying their basketball arena (yay!). In the weekend between I was able to sneak up to UCSB and see a friend of mine while enjoying the amazing weather that Santa Barbara had to offer. She crashed her car trying to see me, so I really wish it would have worked out between us, but 3000 miles is too much.

I was also able to snag a tour of SpaceX, which was amazing. The kind of manufacturing they are doing there is truly magical. I would have pictures to show you, but they had a crazy strict policy on taking them.

I then hoped on a plane to Vegas to see my brother Dillon. We went to the Hoover dam and had a great time. I also got my first tattoo with him as he got his first one with me. I really miss him and wish we lived closer together.

Tattoo in the City of Sin
Tattoo in the City of Sin
My Bro and Me
My Bro and Me


These months were spend almost entirely at MIT. I took two classes: Quantum Mechanics in Electrical Engineering and Fundamentals of Photovoltaics in Mechanical Engineering. They were a lot of work, but led to an A- and an A+, respectively.

The Fundamentals of Photovoltaics course led to a very interesting group project. It was a group project that I was able to help analyze the Mexican Electrical grid for large scale PV plant installation. The professor was so impressed with the course that we may try to form a company out of it.

The results of my PV project. Green lines are transmission lines and the colors represent the differing potentials.
The results of my PV project. Green lines are transmission lines and the colors represent the differing potentials.

And just for a little personal life stuff for you, these three months represented the months that girls collectively decided that Levi was attractive and wanted to really mess with him. I will talk about this on my other blog unfiltered.levilentz.com when I get a chance. But to give you a snippet: I had a girl asked me out, and then for three months she led me on while refusing to hang out. After a month of her dodging hanging out, she asked for coffee and dropped this on me: “I dont want to feel guilty about not doing laundry when I am hanging out with you.” Or to paraphrase: Laundry is more important than hanging out with you. That may have been the highlight and will be the final joke in my first standup comedy act.


So that was my year. I look forward to a very unique 2015 as I already will be traveling to Thailand, Scotland, and San Antonio. Hope your year was amazing and that we will see each other soon.



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