Undergraduate Summer Research Expanded

As a result of the collaboration between two of the colleges at Villanova, undergraduate engineering students now have more opportunities to engage in summer research internships on campus.

Since September 2007, a committee of associate deans and faculty members from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and from the College of Engineering—including Alfonso Ortega, Ph.D., the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research and the James R. Birle Professor of Energy Technology—has been working to make the existing program for summer research internships a prestigious opportunity for undergraduates.

For the summer of 2008 (Phase I of the revised program), seven internships were awarded to engineering students, each of whom will work with a faculty advisor. The internships provide a $2,500 stipend, funding for supplies and expenses related to travel to a conference or a symposium, and room and board.

Under the revised program, more students can pursue their own research, with the chance of getting published or presenting at a conference. They also become more aware of the graduate-school opportunities at Villanova.

Faculty members benefit as well. Because they are working one-on-one with the students outside of the classroom, they get to experience what Dr. Ortega described as “mentorship and teaching in its most glorious form.”

Finally, the program strengthens the University’s reputation as an institution distinguished for its undergraduate education and enhanced research capabilities. The revised internship will attract high-achieving students seeking schools that offer the possibility of undergraduate research.

Until this year, the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs had been the sole source of funding for the program. “We knew that if the colleges contributed financially,” said Dr. Ortega, “we could make the program available to a greater number of students.”

The committee was right. By the time it launched Phase I, the amount of funding had tripled. Thus, many more students were able to apply for and obtain research internships, which will now be offered during the academic year as well.

To apply for an internship, students had to write a competitive research proposal. “Since this is a skill that students should develop,” Dr. Ortega noted, “this step was an intrinsic part of the application process.”

In 2009 (Phase II), the stipends will be higher and a post-internship research symposium will be held in the fall or spring. An enhanced Web site will feature student research. Efforts to advertise the program will increase its visibility, resulting in more applicants and greater competition. At the same time, increased funding will allow more students to participate. This upward spiral is good news for present and future undergraduates.