Rutgers engineering students present findings at second annual research fair
Distracted pedestrians may unwittingly walk into a busy intersection, said Shubham Jain, a doctoral candidate working with the Wireless Information Network Laboratory (WINLAB).
Jain, who is working on a project to alert distracted pedestrians when they are approaching dangerous intersections, was one of many researchers presenting their work to interested students at the Busch Student Center last Tuesday as part of the Second Annual Research Fair, hosted by the Society of Women Engineers and Sigma Phi Delta, a professional engineering fraternity.
Each group had a poster describing their projects in detail, as well as some students to explain their experience and research.
Samantha Murray, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said the fair was designed to shed light on the research done by students, including her own in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. The fair is also designed to help students network with professors and graduate students from various departments.
“I’m hoping that it’ll bring some exposure to all the research that’s going on at this University, not just at the MSE Department or the engineering departments, but in all the science fields that are here at Rutgers,” she said.
Fikret Aydin, a graduate fellow researching with the Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, said it was important that students be exposed to research early.
“I think they can see how different approaches can be used to research all subjects,” he said. “When a student sees two methods to solve a problem, they can have a better idea of combining them and decide in which direction they want to go in the future.”
Aydin, whose research involves computationally modeling liposomes, which allow drugs to enter the body, said he found that experimental research was not want he wanted to do and as a result moved to computer modeling.
Having undergraduate research experience helped him decide what he wanted to do with his career, he said.
He said researchers at Rutgers get access to many resources, such as the University’s supercomputer, Excalibur, as well as national facilities at many other universities around the country.
Communicating with professors is important, Aydin said. Networking is the first step to research.
He said many of the undergraduate students working with his group joined when another graduate student did a presentation at his advisor’s lecture.
Events such as the research fair, Jain said, are where undergraduate and high school students have the opportunity to gain an internship and then a research position with the professors and graduate students present.
Speaking to professors as an undergraduate is a good way to gain a research position, Murray said.
“I was taking classes and was introduced to a lot of professors who were doing research in the materials area,” she said. “I didn’t know a lot about polymers so I figured maybe I’ll explore the area by doing some research. I asked Dr. Nosker for a job and I got involved.”
Thomas Nosker, an assistant research professor in the Department of Ceramics and Materials Engineering, said he started researching at the University when he was a graduate student. He works with Murray to try to create a building material out of recycled plastic.
Groups like the Aresty Program at the University provide research opportunities for students, he said. Students are able to apply to the program before they can see how they like it.
"We use research like a farm system, like a baseball team would," he said. "We get to train people, and if they like it and their grades are good, they can advance in their career.”
Nosker said he hopes that events like the research fair help people make the connections they need to advance in their studies and career.
Research helps students understand what someone who has that job does everyday, he said. It is good for students to expose themselves so they make an educated decision about their futures.
Research can help people reevaluate their career ambitions, he said. The exposure to research helps students decide if they really want to continue that path.
“Don’t be scared to reevaluate and say 'Maybe I picked the wrong major and need a change,’” he said. “Life is long, and you’re going to work for a long time. Don’t be in a hurry to get out — make sure to pick the right thing.”
The first step is gaining experience through research and/or internships, Murray said. Undergraduates who want to gain this experience should make sure to speak up and network.
“Just ask around, because there are a lot of friendly professors who just want to share their knowledge,” she said. “A lot of professors will take you on and you’ll have a new area to look into and see whether you like it or not.”