Lehigh University
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Undergraduate researchers “amazing and outstanding”

Three students won prizes and three more received honorable mentions last month when the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science held its first annual Engineering Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Geoffrey Brunn ’06, a civil engineering major, won first place for a presentation on “Self-Consolidating Concrete for Use in Pre-stressed Bridge Beam Construction.” Brunn’s project adviser was Clay Naito, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Derek Drake ’05, a computer science major, took second place for his presentation, which was titled “Distinguishing Mathematics Notation from English Text Using Computational Geometry.” Drake was advised in his project by Henry Baird, professor of computer science and engineering.

Third place went to Richard Kurz ’05, a mechanical engineering major, who gave a presentation on a tiny airplane that he and a team of students have designed and built and will enter in the international Micro-Aerial Vehicle contest this month in Seoul, South Korea. Joachim Grenestedt, associate professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics, is adviser for the team.

Honorable mentions went to David Fischer ’05, a materials science and engineering major; Rami H. Khouri ’05, a computer science major; and Soo Hooi Oh ‘06, an electrical engineering major.

Fischer, who is advised by Raymond Pearson, professor of materials science and engineering, gave a presentation on “Development of a Robust Filler Metal for Arc Welding Super Austenitic Stainless Steel Alloys.”

Khouri, who is advised by Drew Kessler, assistant professor of computer science and engineering, gave a presentation on “Text Input Widgets in Virtual Environments.”

Oh, who is advised by Boon S. Ooi, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, titled her presentation “Optical Fiber-based Low Temperature Photoluminescence Measurements.”

The three winners will receive scholarships to travel to professional meetings.

A total of 12 students competed at the symposium. Each gave a 10-minute power-point presentation before a panel of five invited experts. The experts were Scott Boyce, a technology analyst for Rohm & Haas; Jeffrey E. Moore, director of business planning and operations for Agere Systems’ Mobility Division; Sunhil Widge, vice president for technology of Carpenter Corp.; James Shaffer, director of engineering at Lafayette College; and Walter Brown, who has retired from Bell Labs and now serves as an adjunct professor in Lehigh’s department of materials science and engineering.

The students were judged for research creativity, significance of results, ability to defend their work, and quality of presentation and time management.

The symposium, which will become an annual event, was conceived by Prof. Himanshu Jain and organized by Jain and Prof. Wojciech Misiolek of the materials science and engineering department.

The professors’ goals are to recognize and reward undergraduates who are conducting research projects, to encourage other students to do research, to give students opportunities to improve their presentation skills, to help students gain a greater appreciation of research, and to encourage students to consider graduate school and careers as researchers.

Judging by the comments of one invited expert, the first symposium appears to have been successful.

“This was an amazing set of presentations,” said Walter Brown, who has been elected to both the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Science. “Each student clearly presented the engineering motivation, the goal, the approach, the results and the implications of their research.”

The students’ poise belied any nervousness they might have felt, said Brown.

“The quality of the talks was outstanding, better than those at many prestigious conferences. All the students conformed to a strict time schedule with evidence of careful preparation and no stumbling over their words. All of them gave thoughtful responses to the follow-up questions from the audience.

“It was a delightful afternoon and an inspiration for the listeners.”

Jain praised the quality and scope of the students’ presentations.

“The presentations ranged from fundamental understanding of an applied phenomenon to a very marketable engineering product,” he said. “They showcased well the breadth of what our college offers. The students handled the questions very well and were honest to say when they did not know the answer.

Six other students took part in the symposium.

David Bell ’06, a bioengineering major, gave a presentation on “Computational Modeling of Healthy and Cleft Palate Eustachian Tubes.”

Julianna Harvey ’06, a bioengineering major, gave a talk on “Bone Growth in Zebrafish Fins.”

Alex Hudgins ’05, a materials science and engineering major, discussed “Model Material for Mechanistic Studies of Abnormal Grain Growth.”

Jeffrey Bretz ’05, a chemical engineering major, titled his presentation “Chaotic Mixing of a Viscoelastic Fluid.”

Jonathan Longley ’05, a chemical engineering major, spoke on “The Weissenberg Phenomenon and its Relation to the Mixing of Oil Additives.”

Alon Abramson ’05, an environmental engineering major, discussed “Determining Distribution of Collision Efficiency of a Bacterial Suspension Flowing Through Porous Media.”

--Kurt Pfitzer

Posted on Wednesday, May 11, 2005

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