PI Pinar Akcora, associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, and co-PI Patricia Muisener, teaching associate professor and associate chair of Undergraduate and Graduate Education in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, recently received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant of $374,971 for their project “REU/RET Site: Interdisciplinary Research Experience in Sustainable Energy and Bioengineering.”
The project provides research experiences for undergraduates (REU) along with research experiences for high school teachers (RET), creating a strongly collaborative research environment for both undergraduate students nationwide and high school teachers. Its focus is on both fundamental and applied research in sustainable energy and bioengineering applications. Nick Parziale, Antonia Zaferiou, Johannes Weickenmeier, Abhishek Sharma, Ansu Perekatt, Jae Chul Kim, Yong Zhang, and Matt Libera are senior personnel in this award.
The project aims to create a vibrant research environment for all participants that offers the implementation of innovative ideas in engineering. Students will be educated to become independent researchers and entrepreneurs, and will be given opportunities to use their newly developed as well as innate skills in the summer-end final project presentation and competition during the annual symposium. Additionally, faculty will foster the development of a network of mentoring relationships between high school teachers and undergraduates. Faculty will also educate teachers on sustainable energy and bioengineering, helping them create lesson plans focused on nanotechnology and engineering for high school curricula.
These educational activities are designed to build students’ self-esteem in scientific presentation and hands-on research. The research experiences inspire students to work on current energy and health related problems. One project goal is for most undergraduate student participants to continue with postgraduate education in science and engineering or pursue research and development careers in industry, academia, or national laboratories.