First-year students get a head start as researchers

Engineering students in the Protégé Program spent the summer conducting research

University of Cincinnati’s Protégé Undergraduate Research Program gives first-year students early access to research experience. Launched in 2013, the Protégé Program offers outstanding undergraduate students in the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) a paid summer position working with faculty researchers or industry partners. 

Students in the Protégé Program spend 12-15 weeks in a research role with a mentor guiding them. They learn to conduct research on a specific project as part of a team. At the conclusion of the summer, the students present their work in an annual Protégé Research Symposium. This year, 20 students participated from CEAS majors in computer science and biomedical, electrical, computer, chemical, mechanical and aerospace engineering.

“The goals of the Protégé Program are to make undergraduate students in CEAS aware of opportunities for careers in research and to provide opportunities for undergraduate students and established researchers to develop long-term relationships,” said F. James Boerio, CEAS professor emeritus and coordinator of the program. 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s students had to shift to remote research work. The end-of-summer symposium became a virtual event for students to make their final presentations. 

“This year, Protégé encountered numerous obstacles brought on by Covid-19,” Boerio said. “Nevertheless, everyone involved, including students, faculty and industrial partners worked very hard to make the program successful and Protégé 2020 culminated with the first-ever online Protégé Research Symposium on August 20.”

Following the virtual symposium, several students were honored for their work. Chemical engineering student Emily Weidner was awarded “best presentation” and a $300 prize. Her research presentation on tissue engineering was entitled “Alignment and Proliferation of Schwann Cells in PDVF-TrFE Scaffolding” and she worked with Greg Harris, assistant professor of chemical engineering.

Sydney Krewson, a mechanical engineering student, earned $200 as the runner-up. She worked with P&G’s Karen McAffry on a project called “Sealing or Bonding Processes for Plastics.”

This year, three students tied for second runner-up and each received $100. They included aerospace engineering student Emma Gaich, who presented her report “Combustion Control and Flameless Combustion” and worked with Ephraim Gutmark, Ohio Eminent Scholar and professor of aerospace engineering; Gregory Muha, an electrical engineering student who worked with Rashmi Jha, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, on a project titled “Trusted and Secured Microelectronics/Hardware”; and Catherine Gottsacker, a chemical engineering student who presented on “Lasers and Liposomes: A Literary Analysis of Controlled Drug Release” and worked with Yoonjee Park, assistant professor of chemical engineering. 

Participants in the Protégé Program are identified by a CEAS faculty committee based on a high-level of performance during their fall semester. Students are interviewed to determine interest in research careers and availability to work during the summer after their freshman year. 

Featured image at top: Baldwin quad on UC's campus. Photo/Corrie Mayer/CEAS Marketing.