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Nano Studies a Primary Focus of Freshman Engineering Major

A Q&A with freshman chemical engineering student Trent Amstutz, UC's May Undergraduate Research Student of the Month.

Date: 5/12/2010 12:00:00 AM
By: Dama Kimmon
Phone: (513) 558-4519

UC ingot   The University of Cincinnati's Undergraduate Research Council has announced the May recipient of the Undergraduate Research Student of the Month award. Check out the Q&A with freshman chemical engineering student Trent Amstutz.

Trent Amstutz
Freshman, Chemical Engineering
Under the direction of faculty mentor Vesselin Shanov, PhD

What undergraduate research project are you working on?
Since this previous fall quarter, I have been working on a project in the Nanoworld labs. The goal is to develop techniques which improve the mechanical and electrical properties of carbon nanotube threads spun from vertical arrays. Individual nanotubes are stronger than diamond or steel and also extremely conductive. Once these properties can be transferred from incredibly small structures to materials of usable size, they could serve a multitude of purposes in almost any industry imaginable.

Why did you opt to do undergraduate research?
As an incoming freshman, I did not know exactly where I was planning to go with my studies. I felt as if research could give me a good perspective on a field more so than any experience in a classroom. I pursued it during my first months here as an exploratory adventure and immediately fell in love with it.  I enjoy knowing that I am not simply reading information printed by someone else, but that I am discovering things through experimental technique.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learned?
The greatest thing that research has taught me is that modern science in all facets is extremely interdisciplinary. There are interconnected portions of the scientific world which cannot operate on their own. Progress in any scientific endeavor requires a team with many different specialties.

What advice would you give to other undergraduates thinking about getting involved in research?
Find an area of academia which truly excites you and pursue it. Don’t let anything stop you from achieving your goals. If you are interested about getting involved, there is most likely a way for you to do it. Ask professors and graduate students about their research and don’t be afraid to go the extra mile in pursuit of opportunities for yourself.

What’s next?
This summer I will be conducting an independent project related to carbon nanotubes funded by UC’s University Research Council Undergraduate Student Research Fellowship program. Next fall, I will continue research in the Nanoworld labs and of course try to work towards graduating in these coming years.