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 August 10, 2015

Xerox Research Fellows: 'The best of what happens here'

The Xerox Research Fellows program allowed five Mechanical Engineering undergraduate students to explore these topics in depth this summer with department faculty members.

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Could flow cells, stacked in our basements, transform the way we store energy, and make it a lot less expensive?

How resistant to earthquakes are historic buildings like the Frigidarium in Rome and the triumphal arch of the Church of St. Peter Apostle of Andahuaylillas near Cusco, Peru? And could this shed light on ways to preserve ancient structures?

Is it possible to simulate – in a lab -- the biomechanics of our inner ear? And could this eventually lead to better hearing aids?

The Xerox Research Fellows program allowed five Mechanical Engineering undergraduate students to explore these topics in depth this summer with department faculty members. As a result:

  • Aaron Sadholz ’16 got his first taste of “real” research.
  • Peter Pilarz and Brandall Bernal, both rising seniors, are now interested in going on to graduate school.
  • Ibrahim Mohammad ’17 stayed on through August to continue fine-tuning his project.
  • And Yuting Yang ’16 is that much closer to publishing a paper.

The Xerox program “is very generous in terms of housing, food and stipend, and they really give you the opportunity to stay here and just focus on research without the distractions of classes and other commitments,” Yang said. “During the academic year, our research moves very slowly; in summer we were able to finish everything. It was a great experience.”

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The Xerox Engineering Research Fellows program, administered by the David T. Kearns Center for Leadership and Diversity, is a collaboration with the Hajim School and Xerox Corp., which provides funding. During the summer before their junior or senior years, participating Hajim undergraduates receive an intensive lab-based, mentored research experience. Many continue their project into the fall as a faculty-advised, independent study course for credit.

Since its inception in 2010, the Xerox Engineering Research Fellows program has enrolled more than 130 Hajim School students. Sixty-nine percent of its graduates have gone on to graduate school, of which 40 percent are currently enrolled in a Ph.D. or other doctoral program. 

“We’re a research university, and when undergraduates get to participate in the research, when you can go beyond standard classroom learning, and engage in learning and discovery and presentation, that’s where you learn the most and you really thrive in your education,” Richard Feldman, Dean of the College, told this year’s participants when they presented their findings at a poster session. “This is the best of what happens here.”

Rob Clark, Dean of the Hajim School and the University’s Senior Vice President for Research, reminded the students to include this summer’s experience on their resumes, whether they go on to graduate school or careers in industry. “Make sure you highlight what you’ve done here. This is an incredible achievement.”

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