Research & Innovation

Students Spend Summer Program Immersed in Research and Entrepreneurship

Every summer, a time when most college students are relaxing, a select group of Stevens students is researching important projects through the university's Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) Summer Scholars program. The 33 students who participated in this year's group presented their work during a poster session inside the Babbio Center Atrium on Oct. 17, 2012.

The students in the summer program work on research projects that have commercial potential. The students can work individually or in groups, and can choose their own projects or take suggestions from professors.

“The focus is on market application more than just research for the sake of research,” said I&E Summer Scholars Program Director David Peacock.

The program began in 2001. It was formerly named Technogenesis but was renamed when its department, the Office of Academic Entrepreneurship, merged with the Office of Enterprise Development to form the new Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE). The OIE was formed to meet Stevens' new strategic initiatives and will assist students, faculty, and alumni who want to pursue research or start a company.

Students must have a GPA over 3.0 and then apply to a selection committee to gain admission to the program. The competition is fierce: in 12 years the program has accepted only 360 students out of 830 applicants. Students can participate in the program for multiple years, though they must apply each year.

Each student receives a $3,500 grant and free on-campus housing. Peacock said the program usually costs around $200,000 annually. The program uses funding from several sources, including grants and scholarships from the Estate of Mrs. Marcelle G. Kadell, the Hesed Foundation, NASA and the National Science Foundation.

The program lasts for ten weeks. Amber Rorick, a senior Chemical Biology major with a concentration in bioanalytical chemistry, used the time to continue a project she started in the spring. She designed a computational method to test the nuclear magnetic resonance of oxygen in the human body, which could potentially save time and money for the biomedical industry.

Rorick said the program enabled her to immerse herself in the project.

“I went from working on it 8-10 hours per week to 8-10 hours per day,” she said.

She also credited her advisor, Professor Yong Zhang.

“Professor Zhang really helped me along the way,” Rorick said. “He was very helpful throughout the whole process.”

Daniel Burke, a senior Chemical Biology major whose project on molecules and cardiac health also has biomedical applications, also said Zhang encouraged him.

“He'll help us understand our question and point us in the right direction, but without giving us the answer,” Burke said.

Burke added that he learned much from participating in the program, including how to work in a group, proper lab techniques and documentation, and how to manage time.

Dimitri Koshkin showed the work he did for the Stevens entry in the upcoming Solar Decathlon, a biennial competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy where student teams build innovative and energy efficient homes, and with each school later donating its house to a low-income family. In 2011 Stevens took first place in two of the ten categories, affordability and hot water use, and then relocated its house for a family in the Deanwood neighborhood of Washington D.C.

Koshkin is on the Electrical Engineering team for Stevens' 2013 Solar Decathlon house. He designed a system of sensors and monitors that will manage the home's energy and water use, such as automatically adjusting heating and cooling to reflect outside temperatures, turning off lights in unoccupied rooms, and enabling the homeowner to control appliances and even the locks on the front door through an iPad application. Koshkin estimated he spent around $1,500 for all the parts, which he said was a substantial savings compared to similar systems already on the market.

Koshkin, a senior Electrical Engineering major, said the summer program gave him time to design his project before he spent the resources to build it. He also said he benefited from working with Professor John Nastasi.

“He says it how it is,” Koshkin said. “He helped me develop all of this and forced me to know what I'm doing.”

After the poster session each of the students received a certificate, a photo yearbook and a special commemorative coin for completing the program. The coin features a circular diagram of arrows and the words students, faculty and industry feeding into each other.

Peacock said the summer program and the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship will continue to evolve as Stevens develops its new strategic initiatives. He added that he hopes each of the students who participate will continue their projects. More than 75 percent of the students enrolled during the program's previous years have continued their projects as seniors or graduate students, or have received additional grants and university funding.

“Hopefully this is the beginning of their spark to doing hard research, and later they'll take this technology with them outside the university,” Peacock said.