Women and Minority Engineering Majors Try Research Careers in Summer Program at UMass Amherst

AMHERST, Mass. - Nine undergraduates at the University of Massachusetts are learning to become researchers during 10-week summer internships sponsored by the Minority Engineering Program and the Women in Engineering Program, both in the University''s College of Engineering.

Each student is teamed with a graduate student and a faculty mentor in his or her discipline, said Vanessa M. Rivera, director of the Minority Engineering Program. The students are paid for their work, which is guided and overseen by their faculty mentors, Rivera said. Students are working on a variety of topics, ranging from how well people drive, as tested in the campus''s driving simulator, to determining the impact damage on specific kinds of glass.

"The short-term goal for the program is to provide undergraduate women and minority students with an opportunity to work on a research project with a faculty member," said Rivera. "The longer-term goal is to have some influence in guiding these students toward graduate school and possible careers in college teaching and research."

Another important aspect of the program is teaching students to present their ideas clearly and comfortably, Rivera said. Writing reports of publishable quality and communicating research findings to colleagues is a major part of the engineering world. The participants, who include students entering their sophomore, junior, and senior years, will present their research to their peers, as well as faculty members and industry representatives, in early August.

Students have also attended seminars organized by Nancy Hellman, dean of undergraduate affairs and director of the Women in Engineering Program. The seminars include lectures and presentations on topics relevant to the undergraduate research experience.

The 10-week effort is funded through a donation from Hamilton Standard, a division of United Technologies Corp. The College of Engineering acknowledges the efforts of James Carswell, a University alumnus and director of environmental control systems at Hamilton Standard, for helping to make the program a reality, Rivera said.