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Undergrad Research Symposium: Who will be 'The People's Choice?'

Carolyn Scott '10, winner of the 2010 Symposium, explains her research to the judging panel.

Stop out and vote for the top undergraduate engineering student research of 2011

It's as close as Lehigh Engineering is likely to ever get to American Idol -- the annual David and Lorraine Freed Undergraduate Research Symposium, your chance to vote on the top engineering student researchers of 2011. The Symposium will be held on Tuesday, March 15, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the STEPS Building main lobby.

The annual Symposium, held each spring, showcases the research skills of today's rising Lehigh Engineers. The event also helps student-competitors, nominated by their departments, learn how to express the significance and complexity of their work and answer questions posed by a panel of judges as well as faculty, students, and visitors in attendance.

What's more, all members of the Lehigh community are encouraged to stop in to vote for the coveted "People's Choice Award."

The Symposium highlights the work and academic achievements of students from across Lehigh Engineering. Twenty-two students representing eight majors will compete in this year's Symposium, presenting their research to a panel of judges. Winners will earn travel scholarships that will allow them to attend professional conferences to further promote their research, and top finishers will also move onto the university-wide competition to be held later in the month.

[Note: for a complete listing of engineering student-competitors including last-minute entries, see the Symposium Web site.]

Sushan Zheng '11 and Katherine Glass-Hardenbergh '11 are looking to assist people in decision-making positions -- from school district officials to individual investors -- through their project, titled "Bond Management Under Uncertainty."The research that we are working on is related to bond risk measure," said Zheng. "So we are building a model to minimize the risk with robust optimization techniques, from the perspectives of before and after funding." Zheng and Glass-Hardenbergh are conducting their research alongside their faculty advisor, Aurélie Thiele, associate professor of industrial and systems engineering.

In contrast, Jake Patterson '11 knows exactly what his research will entail: improving the Formula SAE team's performances in racing competitions. His research is rooted in his love for cars, design, and manufacturing. Soon after arriving at Lehigh, he joined the Formula SAE team, which is comprised of approximately 15 undergraduate students from all disciplines who have a strong interest in motorsports. The team designs and manufactures its own racing cars for various competitions. "My project is basically just looking at the manufacturing process that goes into creating the Formula SAE team's chassis and trying to find areas that can be improved such as manufacturing techniques," Patterson said. "I also will be evaluating the physical properties of the chassis, such as strength and stiffness."

Patterson, whose research is conducted with faculty advisor Joachim Grenestedt, professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics, also highlighted the importance of the research and the and the advantages of working on "real life" problems outside the classroom. "It is impressive how much you learn when you have to sit down and figure something out for yourself instead of just solving problems out of a book," he said.

Andrew Woodward, Mary Nunley, Kyle Schreiner, and Danny Cohen, all from the Class of 2011, represent civil and environmental engineering with their project, "South Bethlehem Greenway." According to the group's abstract, the greenway is "a major civic undertaking that will convert the former Norfolk-Southern Railway corridor into a linear park from Route 378 in South Bethlehem to Lehigh University's Goodman Campus." Their overarching goal is to create a way to integrate Lehigh's campus with South Bethlehem "through a cost-effective and strategic design." The group was advised by Rick Weisman, professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Rob Asselin '11 and Andrew Maier '11 have scrutinized the construction of the traditional Chinese Rainbow Bridge "to assess the possibility of reinterpreting the basic structural concept using modern materials," according to their abstract. The team's goal was to improve the flexibility, strength, and functionality of the bridge, which their research and experiments proved a "hybrid arch-beam structural system" would be the best solution. Asselin and Maier were advised by Clay Naito, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Seniors Stuart Blake and Stephen Scoza, computer systems engineering majors, worked with AirProducts to develop "an extensible class structure that supports a cashless payment system" that would replace an invoice-based billing system and reduce lag-time between delivery and received payment, according to their abstract. Noticing a trend in the popularity of SmartCards, the team left room for "integration" of that technology into their designs. Their faculty advisor is Sharon Kalafut, professor of practice in computer science and engineering.

Alexander Bourque and Jonathan Rosen's research explored intrinsically disordered proteins (IUPs), which are involved with many neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. According to their abstract, "IUPs have been known to undergo a disorder-to-order transition," but their research showed that their "preference for collapse is found to be much weaker than predicted by previous studies." The two seniors, who were advised by Jeetain Mittal, assistant professor of chemical engineering, plan to conduct further experiments in the future.

Justin Nice '12, a bioengineering student, studied pathogenic microorganisms "through a series of genetic and bioinformatic screens" investigating "how expression of secreted MORN domain-containing proteins from Neisseria sicca and Pseudomonas aeruginosa alter host cytoskeletal and outer membrane structure," according to his abstract. Nice's project was advised by Bryan Berger, assistant professor of chemical engineering.

Anthony Ventura '11, a materials science and engineering major, experimented with powder metallurgy parts looking to improve their machinability. According to his abstract, his project "examine[d] the effect of 9 different additives on the machinability of FC-0208 steel PM parts." His findings show "one of the experimental additives may provide an increase in machinability when compared to current industry additives." Ventura's research is advised by Wojtek Misiolek, professor of materials science and engineering.

The judging of the posters will begin at p.m. and continue through the awards ceremony to begin at 4:30 p.m. Please visit the Symposium Web site for more information.

Story by Melissa Collins

Posted on Monday, March 14, 2011

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