From the effects of ethanol use on greenhouse gas to an investigation of the role of road geography in turtle and frog mortality rates, undergraduate students working at Clarkson University recently presented the results of summer research projects at the fourth annual Symposium on Undergraduate Research Experiences.
Each summer, students from Clarkson and universities around the country come to the University to participate in research led by Clarkson faculty and graduate students mentors. The students’ research activities, which are conducted over a period of five to ten weeks, are funded through a variety of grants, including the National Science Foundation and the McNair Scholars Program. Students in the Clarkson Honors program also participate. This year 70 students participated in summer research projects.
“The opportunity for undergraduate students to participate in state-of-the-art research projects is part of Clarkson’s commitment to providing real-world, hands-on learning experiences,” said Rebecca Sutcliffe, associate director of Research and Curriculum Innovation. “The benefits for the students are extraordinary. They gain experience in the thinking processes and the hands-on technical skills needed to tackle open-ended problems. They get involved in collaborative working relationships with faculty and other students. They even gain insights into career possibilities. ”
Research projects cover a wide variety of disciplines, from bio-molecular science to mechanical engineering and computer science. The students then present their research at the symposium, which includes a full day of poster displays and presentations before fellow student researchers, faculty and the general public.
Clarkson software engineering senior Ashwin Venkatraman agrees. He and research partner Todd Deshane, also a software engineering senior, worked on a study that assessed and compared Internet transfer data protocols on different types of network connections. “When you are given an independent research project to work on, you have to do everything yourself — from figuring out where to begin to reading widely on related research,” said Venkatraman. “You learn through trial and error. It is very exciting. The knowledge you get in the end helps make sense of everything you learn in the classroom.”
Clarkson sophomores and electrical engineering majors Kim Anderson and Lindsay Emerson worked with faculty adviser and Professor of Electrical Engineering Tom Ortmeyer on a problem a little closer to home. Their research project continued work that began in a fall 2001 Honors problem course.
“The goal is to make Clarkson more energy efficient and sustainable, to reduce energy costs and to decrease Clarkson’s reliance on outside energy sources,” explained Anderson. “To make a reliable assessment of Clarkson’s energy uses, we had to calculate the amount of energy used everyday to light campus buildings by counting lights, noting their power ratings and recording the number of hours they were in use. We had to review gas and electric meter readings of each building on campus for 2001 and 2002. There is still more to be done and the collected data must be analyzed further before any recommendations can be made. But it really opened our eyes to the amount of work, detail and information gathering that goes into research. It was a great learning experience.”
Photo caption: Clarkson sophomore Charles Mangan explains research on road-related amphibian mortality at an undergraduate research symposium held recently.