Hajim undergrads get research experience as Xerox fellows
(Comfort Adeyemi, a biomedical engineering undergraduate, is a 2014 Xerox Engineering Research Fellow, working on "Biomechanical Properties of the Limbus" with her faculty mentor, Asst. Prof. Mark Buckley.)
Sarah Wayson was undecided. Solomon Gaim wasn’t even thinking about it.
Thanks to their experiences in the Xerox Engineering Research Fellows Program, both of these Hajim School undergraduates have their eyes set on obtaining advanced degrees.
The program, developed and administered bv the David T. Kearns Center for Leadership and Diversity in Arts, Sciences and Engineering, is a collaboration with the Hajim School and Xerox Corp., which provides funding. It provides an intensive lab-based, mentored research experience for engineering undergraduates during the summer before their junior or senior years. Most participants continue their research project into the fall as a faculty-advised, independent study course for which the students receive course credit.
“It really gets at the heart of what we want to do, to put young minds to work,” said Robert Clark, Dean of the Hajim School and the University’s Senior Vice President for Research, at a recent symposium and poster session where this year’s participants displayed their research. “It gives you experience in a lab, and allows you to really pursue something of interest to you, working side by side with faculty and graduate students. It is a unique opportunity that hopefully will give you new skills that you can translate into your future career path.”
Since its inception five years ago, the Xerox engineering fellows program has enrolled 131 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.
This year’s cohort of 27 students is the largest yet, and the research projects the students are engaged in span a wide range of disciplines. For example, Wayson (shown at left), a rising senior in biomedical engineering, is working with Prof. James McGrath on using electrostatic interactions to better target and time the release of medicine across a porous, silicon nanomembrane. Gaim, a rising junior in Chemical Engineering, is exploring a microcontact printing stage that could deposit layers of various materials a single molecule thick on surfaces, and could be used to manufacture high resolution OLED displays and other electronics arrays.
“It’s been an awesome experience,” said Gaim (at left), whose mentor is Alexander Shestopalov, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering. “It’s really eye opening, when you look around this room and see all the different types of research being conducted. There are a lot of different applications.”
Wayson said the experience has not only developed her engineering skills, but has been “great for practicing public speaking and learning how to present your work to other people.”
The Xerox fellows program includes a professional development seminar and assists students in preparing graduate school applications. The program “prepares students for life beyond the University of Rochester’s walls by focusing on interviewing skills, professional dress, online image, responsible conduct in research, communicating research to a non-scientist audience, applying to graduate school and pursuing careers in engineering,” according to a program progress report.
John Kelly, president of Xerox Global Services North America and a University of Rochester trustee, said the program “has exceeded our expectations.” It embodies three key concepts espoused by the late David Kearns, former Xerox CEO, who stressed the importance of: 1. education in making a society successful 2. research as a way to “push boundaries and bring new discoveries to light” and 3. giving people of all races and creeds opportunities to be successful.
The selection of Xerox Engineering Research Fellows is highly competitive. To learn more, go to: http://www.rochester.edu/college/kearnscenter/Xerox/xeroxfellowsmain.html
(Jenny Won, above, and Brendan Knight, below, explain their projects as 2014 Xerox Engineering Research Fellows at a poster session in Munnerlyn Atrium. Won is working with Prof. Jannick Rolland on assessing the opththalmologic applications of Gabor-Domain Optical Coherence Microscopy -- for example, measuring the edge thickness of soft contact lenses. Knight's project, with Prof. Regine Choe, explored the use of Diffuse Optical Spectroscopy and Diffuse Correlation Spectroscopy to assess blood circulation in patients' feet as a way to diagnose Peripheral Arterial Disease.)