Undergraduate Engineers Present Impressive Research

Zachery Smith ‘16 ChE presents his research to Drosdick Endowed Dean of Engineering Gary A. Gabriele, PhD.
Zachery Smith ‘16 ChE presents his research to Drosdick Endowed Dean of Engineering Gary A. Gabriele, PhD.

Undergraduate research opportunities are among the many distinguishing features of a Villanova Engineering education. Within the College of Engineering, students participate in undergraduate thesis projects, summer research internships or fellowships, faculty research, and externally-sponsored projects completed in collaboration with industry and government agencies. Other opportunities, like the Villanova Undergraduate Research Fellows (VURF) program, are available to students across the University.

Sponsored by Villanova’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, the VURF program provides financial support for student summer research—from stipends to funding for supplies, travel and conference support. On September 23, nearly 75 undergraduate summer researchers, including 25 VURF awardees, presented their work during the annual Undergraduate Research Poster Day. Among them were 17 engineering majors, six of whom had earned the VURF fellowship.

During the poster session, students were on hand to explain both the technical aspects of their work, as well as the practical application and human value of their projects. Samantha Kalup ’16 ME noted that her research on “Mechanical properties of human lumbar intervertebral disc tissues under transient hyperphysiologic loading conditions” had special meaning for her because her father is in the military, one of the groups most impacted by the conditions she studied.  

Personal interest drove Samantha Kalup’s ’16 ME research on human lumbar intervertebral disc tissues.
Personal interest drove Samantha Kalup’s ’16 ME research on human lumbar intervertebral disc tissues.

Conversations with Villanova’s researchers also revealed the importance of collaboration, both internally with fellow undergraduates and graduate students, as well as with those at other universities. Samantha’s advisor, Visiting Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering David Jamison, PhD, facilitated an introduction to those at the University of Delaware who had experience with the modeling program she needed for her research. Similarly, senior Chemical Engineering major Nicholas Ribaudo’s “Microbial fuel cell-in-silico model” involved collaboration with engineers at Virginia Tech. Today he is continuing the work for his senior design project, and has partnered with a Villanova PhD student who is conducting related research.

In addition to those in the VURF program, a number of engineering undergraduates pursued research outside of the University. Liesl Krause ’16 EE spent the summer in West Lafayette, Indiana, working on “Cold atmospheric plasma” with post- doctorates and faculty at Purdue University. She says, “I applied to research programs at several schools and Purdue expressed an interest in my idea, which involved working with their nuclear engineering department.” Of the 200 researchers in the program, Liesl was one of only 30 who were not Purdue students.

Another student whose research efforts took him beyond the University was Andrew Meluch ’16 ME. Through RISE (Research Internships in Science and Engineering) Germany, a summer internship program for undergraduate students from the U.S., Canada and the U.K., Andrew pursued his interest in “The effect of spatial separation on 2D temperature mapping using thermographic phosphors.” His German research partner hopes to publish the work, with Andrew listed as co-author.

The College congratulates each of its student researchers. A complete list of 2015 Villanova Undergraduate Research Fellows is available online.