Promising Undergrad Research Propels with Protégé

By:        Staci Jones
Date:     August 19, 2016

During the summer of 2016, 11 University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) students worked closely with faculty mentors on research projects through Protégé.

The program was launched in summer 2013 by a team of three senior faculty, Professors F. James Boerio, Emeriti Ronald Huston and Thomas Mantei, and Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Studies Frank M. Gerner. The group of faculty aimed to provide challenging research experiences for promising undergraduate students.

During her summer research experience, mechanical engineering student, Paige Johnson, worked with Eric Bond at Procter & Gamble in the Material Science and Technology Department. Johnson was able to document the viscosity of various polymer melt blends in order to analyze data to find trends and correlations.

“Participating in the program was very interesting, it definitely showed me another reason to take undergraduate studies seriously because all knowledge is important and builds upon itself,” said Johnson.

Ryan Durham, chemical engineering major, worked under Professor Maobing Tu where Durham worked with butane and ethanol on a biochemical conversion project of biomass to advanced biofuel.

“The Protégé project has given me experience in the lab as well as experience in working an office job,” said Durham, “The experience has furthered my professional career by providing me with an advantage at co-op interviews because I was able to speak to working in a lab setting. I feel that the program led me to receiving the co-op I have currently.”

During his summer research, John Siegel, computer engineering student, worked under Professor Nan Niu. He focused on ways to improve software traceability to accessible levels so that more people would use the tools and techniques.  He states that the project made him a much better programmer and taught him that it is okay to not know everything in the beginning because everything is attainable with hard work.

“I think it was a very positive experience for me,” reflected Siegel.

Andrew Black, likewise a computer engineering student, worked under Dr. Yue Cui to research bioelectronic chips and the response to different concentrations of chemicals.

Black felt that he was able to learn a lot about research protocol and reporting, as well as bioelectronics itself.

“Protégé helped me network with a number of new people with similar passions for learning and research,” said Black.

Mechanical engineering major, Mary Dickman, worked in the Gas Dynamics and Propulsion Laboratory at UC during her summer research experience.

She worked on the Jet Noise Prediction and Reduction projects under Professor Ephraim Gutmark and states that the Protégé project impacted her by “giving me a glimpse into the processes and challenges of academic research”. Dickman says that the program gave her the opportunity to practice and advance her academic skills over the summer break.

Elizabeth Sheetz, electrical engineering major, worked on wearable biosensor development. While working on the project, she spent time designing a custom electronic device and assisting in designing experiments involving human factors. Sheetz says the project granted her the opportunity to take an interdisciplinary approach by studying research concepts from electrical engineering, biology, and chemistry discourses.

“Due to the fact that my experience was so diverse, I learned a lot about the integration of different field of learning, it showed me how helpful it can be to have a well-rounded education and experience,” said Sheetz, “I learned more than I ever could have expected about research, engineering, and myself from the Protégé program. I would absolutely recommend the program to my fellow students and I would absolutely do it again.”

During his summer research, computer engineering major, Jonathan Kenney, worked on developing and testing sweat-sensor electronics that are responsible for processing and transmitting data received from a skin patch. Kenney worked on his project with graduate student, Purva Bhatnagar.

He states that Protégé impacted him both academically and professionally by exposing him to hands-on experience as a first-year student.

“The skills I learned were at the graduate level,” stated Kenney, “There is no doubt that Protégé grew me into a superior academic and professional.”

Emily Belovich, electrical engineering major, completed the Protégé Program as a Pathways Student Trainee at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH. Her mentor was Michelle Champion and throughout the summer, she worked on the Liquid Metals for Reconfigurable Antennas project at the Base.

Belovich states that the program opened her eyes to the world of research and allowed her to explore how diverse the field of electrical engineering is.

Chemical engineering major, William Hobart, worked under Taotao Zhu, a researcher at Procter & Gamble, on a project that involved 3-D printing and CAD Software.

“Being able to work in upstream research the summer after my freshman year showed me my own potential,” stated Hobart, “even as someone without advanced technical training, I was still able to contribute in a meaningful way.”

Maria Koenig, mechanical engineering student, worked on drones for human transportation with Professor Mark Turner in the aerospace engineering department.

“This program helped me to expand on and apply my classroom knowledge, it also introduced me to the research side of engineering” said Koenig, “Both of which will help me in determining a future career path.”

The students all agree that the 12-week summer Protégé program granted them hands-on research experience that will follow them for the rest of their time at UC and beyond. On behalf of the College of Engineering and Applied Science, congratulations to these outstanding students in their mission to ENGINEER BETTER.