Opportunities abound for undergraduate research!
Research provides some of the most meaningful undergraduate academic experiences.
Not only do students delve into a focused area of interest, but they also gain hands-on
experience applying technical skills while putting their analytical and critical-thinking
abilities to practice. There are independent projects with faculty or organized programs
such as the:
Students who participate in undergraduate research projects enter the workforce with
a jump on their fellow graduates, having worked with leading researchers, co-authored
published papers and given conference presentations. There is no better real-world
Bioengineering senior David Bassen began working with assistant professor Gretchen Mahler
on tissue engineering last spring. A Barry M. Goldwater Scholar, Bassen is studying
the interaction of therapeutic nanoparticles with heart valve endothelial cells. In
2012 he also interned for a second summer at the Wadsworth Center Laboratories at
the New York State Department of Health in Albany on an NSF Research Experience for
Undergraduates supplemental grant. During his first internship at Wadsworth, Bassen
examined molecular mechanics models, constructed a sequence alignment of intein structures
and developed threedimensional visualizations of the intein splicing mechanisms. This
summer he learned electron microscopy and extended his skills in computational modeling
by characterizing microtubule derived structures.
Ronald Miller was only a freshman, but his search for a summer research project paid
off in spades when Associate Professor of Bioengineering Jacques Beaumont connected
him with Dr. Daniel Tso, director of research at SUNY Upstate Medical University's
neurosurgical laboratories. During summer 2011, Miller joined Tso's team of NIH-funded
researchers working to develop an early-detection protocol for debilitating retinal
diseases that affect the sensitive tissue inside the eye. "Right now, the only way
to identify macular degeneration — or many other retinal diseases — is to already
have it," Miller explains. "By then it's past certain points in treatment. This could
be a way to detect it before the onset of the disease." Miller helped other lab staff
present visual stimuli to normal mice and mice with specific genetic mutations, collecting
retinal images from the stimulated mice with sensitive digital cameras. The images
captured expected retinal activity in the normal mice, and showed expected deficits
in retinal function in mice with the mutations.
As a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, Robert Dextre '12 was both the student
speaker and a presenter at the Binghamton Research Days. He presented his research
project from an internship he held with NASA last summer titled "CATS: Cryogenic Acquisition
and Transfer System." He first became involved in research with ME Associate Professor
Mohammad Younis and his work with micro-electrical mechanical systems in the summer
of 2010. "I had no idea what it was at first, and I wasn't even sure if I would like
it," Dextre says. "But I gained more knowledge and skills than I could ever have obtained
from a textbook. My experience was far more rewarding than I could have ever imagined
and much more useful than any homework assignment." Dextre will attend the University
of Alabama, Huntsville, this fall to pursue a PhD in aerospace engineering.
Nick Ciaravella '11 interest in information security kicked into high gear after taking
Professor Scott Craver's courses on cryptography and information security. Ciaravella
participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates program in cyber security
at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and then approached Electrical and
Computer Engineering Professor Craver about opportunities with his projects soon after.
"We're developing a system called AINT (AINT Is Not There) — a steganographic file
system that can be installed and run from an ordinary flash drive. While a cryptographic
file system will protect your data by making it unreadable to another person, a steganographic
file system will be completely hidden, so it appears to be nonexistent. Later, a user
interface can be built on top of it to give it a completely hidden operating environment,"
explains Ciaravella, a double degree alumnus in mathematics and computer science.
He realized their concept could actually work when he was able to successfully boot
and interact with the encrypted server on the flash drive.
Maureen Gundlach '06 began her undergraduate research through the Summer Undergraduate
Research Fellowship program at NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
She studied a polymer called PBO – the main material in bulletproof vests. PBO is
a very long-chain polymer that is spun into high-tensile strength yarn and woven into
sheets of fabric. Many layers are then encased and worn as bulletproof vests. PBO
degrades in the presence of heat, moisture, acid and mechanical damage, so the long-term
project was to quantify these effects, and then contribute to national life-cycle
standards of vests and legal cases regarding failures. She determined the effects
of mechanical damage (such as repeated bending at the waist when sitting and standing)
on the tensile strength of PBO fibers. But her most memorable experience? "Bringing
the bulletproof vests to the ballistics lab. An intact vest would be strapped to a
huge block of clay and shot at. When I stuck my thumb into the indentation and saw
that the depth of penetration into an officer's ribs correlated with the tensile strength
of PBO, I had a great moment of, "Wow, my research can really affect people's lives!"