Undergraduate Research Academy seeks growth

Sept. 9, 2013

Dezarae Yoder
[email protected]

Students from across the department spectrum at UCCS are participating in the premier Undergraduate Research Academy.

Rebecca Webb, assistant professor, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, only expects further development.

“Our goal is to get everybody on campus involved in research where it’s possible,” Webb stated. “We’re off to a fabulous start.”

Webb, one of the individuals largely responsible for the Academy, has been inspired by student desire for involvement.

“In the past six years I’ve had 17 undergrads do research for me,” Webb said. “[T]hrough that process [students] learn a lot and are encouraged to go to graduate school,” she said, adding that the whole process is “rewarding.”

Many participants this year are from the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Others come from biology, psychology, English and history, resulting in more applications than anticipated.

“We had broader participation across the campus than we expected,” stated Webb.

She also commented money would play a large part growing this innovation. “Obviously it’s all going to be financially driven.”

Webb attributed spoken word as the greatest publicity for the Academy and its growth. “I had Commode Chronicles, I had articles, I had emails; the only thing that worked was word of mouth,” she said.

The majority of the funding for this Academy came from Michael Larson, vice chancellor of research and innovation.

“He provided a huge percentage of the money, and then the deans of the prospective colleges also contributed,” stated Webb.

Finances of the future are a high priority, according to Webb.

“We have a couple of options and we’re trying to find more money because we can’t just rely on what we had,” she said.

Mentioning the original supporters, she added that “hopefully the deans will contribute again.”

Academy participant Faraz Saleem, a junior mechanical and aerospace engineering major, thinks of his experience in the Academy as a positive one. “It ultimately benefitted me; I got funding to continue,” he said.

Saleem’s work has been published in AIAA, a journal focused on advancement of science and technology, which was a direct result of his project.

“I made a simplified model that we were working with. It was made in order to decrease computational solving time,” he explained. “It [the model] was used for a study that analyzed preheating a fluid in order to increase thrust for a propulsion system.”

The model created not only served Saleem as a project that earned him a spot in a science journal as a junior, but also contributed to a graduate student’s thesis.

As in Saleem’s case, his work went directly toward the research of mechanical engineering master’s student Tom Amundson,

“Everything that Faraz has been working on has contributed to my thesis,” Amundson stated, “It’s great.”

Amundson also touched on the need to aid the undergrads in order for them to make a significant enough contribution.

“It’s a lot of work to teach them and bring them up to speed so that they are to a point where you can hand them a piece of your work.”

Mechanical engineering master’s student Dan Gould said similarly, “It’s an opportunity to teach what you’ve learned, and bring people up.”

Webb sees potential in the set-up, citing students who are a part of this Academy are able to use the tools they have acquired throughout their college experience and apply it to a large-scale research project before becoming a graduate student.

Webb invited all students to participate and gain great knowledge through the program. The inaugural Academy class is scheduled to present its research in the spring.