Opportunities for undergraduate research abound!
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 preparation.
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!"