Undergraduates to Showcase Summer Research Projects at UMass Amherst

AMHERST, Mass. – An anti-anxiety pressure vest and a weather-monitoring radar are just two of the summer research projects that students will present on Friday, Aug. 4 at the Engineering Student Center in Marcus Hall on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

The event will showcase the work of 23 students who are participating in the College of Engineering Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program, which is centered at UMass Amherst. Academic partners for the REU Program include the UMass Amherst College of Engineering, Smith College, Mt. Holyoke College, Springfield Technical Community College and the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez.

The focus of the REU Program is on interdisciplinary research and may include students specializing in chemical, civil, environmental, electrical, computer, industrial or mechanical engineering or other closely related majors.

Projects include designing and building the “deep-pressure vest,” which provides comfort for patients with high-anxiety disorder, working on a collaborative team developing radar that promises to revolutionize how humans monitor weather, developing a low-cost anaerobic membrane bioreactor that’s geared for cleaning domestic wastewater in tropical developing countries, and working on drug-delivery systems using a synthetic clay called laponite.

“The REU Program provides an in-depth experience working with faculty and other students on the edge of knowledge that often provides a defining moment for students,” says Michael F. Malone, dean of the College of Engineering and the principal investigator for the REU project.

The REU Program is being supported by a three-year $298,000 grant from the National Science Foundation and by the Engineering Research Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere. It is also supported at UMass Amherst by alumnus James M. Smith, the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, Commonwealth College, and the Dean’s Fund for Undergraduate Research, established in honor of Joseph I. and Barbara H. Goldstein. The cost of funding an undergraduate student researcher for the summer is about $7,500.

“Undergraduate students who are thinking of graduate study and want to get a taste of research can do so and get paid for it, the same as if they had a position in industry,” says Kathleen Rubin, co-principal investigator for the project and assistant dean for outreach at the College of Engineering.