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IGERT Summer Undergraduate Program Excels!


The IGERT in Sustainable Energy from Solar Hydrogen hosted their second Summer Undergraduate Research Experience. During this 10 week period, 9 students participated. Each week a number of activities were planned ranging from lectures, site visits and skills for success courses. And, every two weeks the undergraduates were expected to give a 5 minute presentation on their work undertaken so far in front of an audience which included both faculty and students. This year, students from Penn State, Lincoln University and the University of Florida participated alongside some of Delaware’s own engineering undergraduates.

The program focuses on giving the Summer students the opportunity to develop their research skills, by being paired with a member of faculty involved with the IGERT, and developing interpersonal skills as well. Furthermore, we aim to give the students the opportunity to learn about the world of academia vs industry. This is why the program ensures that even though the students do research in a laboratory, they also get to go and visit certain industries in and around Delaware. This past year the summer students visited BP, Air Liquide and Exxon Mobile.

At the end of the summer the students are also expected to participate in the IGERT symposium which is student run. Last year, we collaborated with NREL and their MURA program (Minority Undergraduate Research Associates). Each of the summer students were expected to present a poster and elevator talk at the conference.

The success of the summer program is recognized by both the University of Delaware and the College of Engineering. It is truly interdisciplinary in nature and the students only have positive feedback for it. The fact that we have students wanting to come back and attend the program again is a sign that it is a success and offers the students something more than the average summer research program.

At present the funding for this opportunity comes from university contributions (via a Matching fund), but we do endeavor to develop and apply for a REU through NSF at some point.

Address Goals

The summer program allows the students to learn in a variety of ways. Not only are they learning from the faculty adviser that they have been paired with, but they are also learning from the other students in both the IGERT program and the other summer students.

Each week, the summer students are given seminars to enhance their learning in areas pertaining to the Solar Hydrogen IGERT. In 2008, Professor Ajay Prasad, Professor Christiana Honsberg and Professor Robert Opila provided the students with information about their various areas of expertise. It is commendable that members of faculty are involved in the program and are actively involved in disseminating knowledge to the students which helps to expand their scientific literacy.

In a similar vein, the present IGERT graduate students work with the summer students. Weekly informative seminars on the IGERT student’s research are given, once again highlighting how very much the present IGERT students are involved in the learning process of the summer undergraduates.

Even though the summer session focuses on research skills, the students are also prepared for learning skills for success. They attended a technical writing seminar, an ethics workshop, a health and safety workshop and a communications seminar. Each of these ensure that they are learning to become more well-rounded Science citizens.

The research that is done during the summer enables the students to work in an area pertinent to the United States – renewable energy. Each of their individual research areas enable them to realize the importance of developing solutions to a sustainable future. Even though it is only 10 weeks in duration, the students have a refreshed attitude towards how very important their summer research was in advancing knowledge in science and engineering.