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UC Women in Science And Engineering
Celebrate Success of Summer Undergraduate Research Program

Date: Sept. 4, 2001
By: Chris Curran
Phone: (513) 556-1806
Photo courtesy of UC geology Archive: Research News

Cincinnati - Seventeen University of Cincinnati undergraduate women were able to earn money and advance their science and engineering careers this summer during the UC Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) summer Research Experience for Women Undergraduates program.

Geology undergraduate Lisa King

Each young woman was paired with a faculty research mentor and spent the last two months conducting a research project on topics as diverse as cancer and bluebird ecology. The students will present their research findings from noon to 3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6 in Room 427 Engineering Research Center.

The program coordinators are Urmila Ghia, professor of mechanical engineering, and Rebecca German, professor of biological sciences. "We're here, because want to be here," said German, "…because we wish we had someone do this for us."

"The WISE program supports and promotes the view that hands-on experience in science or engineering helps our brightest women students understand that they are capable of a scientific career," added Ghia, who is also a co-chair of the university-wide Women's Initiatives Network.

A recent report by the National Council for Research on Women indicated that women hold just 12 percent of science and engineering jobs even though they make up 45 percent of the workforce. There has also been significant difficulty attracting women to some science and engineering fields. For example, women earned less than 20 percent of computer science degrees. In recent years, women earned fewer than 20 percent of computer science degrees, only 19 percent of all physics degrees and 18 percent of engineering degrees.

The following are examples of the high-level research projects the undergraduates completed this year:

Airplane Wing Design
Student: Lauren Towles, mechanical engineering.
Adviser: Urmila Ghia
Summary: Lauren is analyzing the performance of aircraft wings, with the goal of improving the performance of the wings, and thus increasing the amount of time an aircraft can remain in flight. This information will be valuable to the government and the aircraft industry. The study is relevant to Lauren's career goals, because both aircraft and automobile design are based upon the same principles. "The program is benefiting me by teaching me research skills and helping me determine if this field is something I would like to do in the future,"said Lauren.

Bluebird Ecology Study
Student: Courtney Busemeyer, mathematical sciences.
Adviser: Steve Pelikan
Summary: Courtney is putting her statistics expertise to use, working with the North American Bluebird Society (NABS) to "explore some pressing questions of bluebird biology and conservation management." The data included in Courtney's analysis have been collected throughout the continent. Pelikan said, "Courtney has made lots of progress. She's done some sophisticated statistics, but also manages to communicate her results to the general public." Her results will be used almost immediately by conservation trail managers, and her report will be the featured article in the fall issue of "North American Bluebird."

Chemotherapy Advances
Student: Zenobia Tayeb, biological sciences.
Adviser: Carol Caperelli.
Summary: Zenobia is working with a human enzyme and eight different compounds to determine whether or not they inhibit the enzyme. The study will be useful for the design of potential chemotherapeutic agents. Zenobia is working with Professor Carol Caperelli in the College of Pharmacy and says she's grateful for the experience she gained this summer. "I think that it is a great opportunity to develop professional skills, which is very important in the real world setting, so it is a good chance to practice them here."

Solar Power Simulation
Student: Erin Bloom, computer engineering.
Adviser: Kenneth Roenker, 513-556-4761
Summary: Erin is simulating silicon solar cells that covert sunlight to electricity and investigating their behavioral characteristics. This information will be quite valuable to people who study or are interested in alternate sources of power and power in space. Erin has been observing the cells' basic behaviors and will next try to modify the cells to improve their efficiency.

Paleoclimate and Ohio's Glacial Past
Student: Lisa King, geology.
Adviser: Thomas Lowell
Summary: King was helping to analyze sediment cores from 10 sites around Ohio in hopes of reconstructing the climate conditions during the Ice Age in Ohio. Paleoclimate records showing high-frequency patterns, such as the El Nino cycle, provide a means to reconstruct past climate variability, which is one basis to understand future climate trends. The primary objective is to find patterns developed in glacial time, unlike the present warm period, and exclusive of anthropogenic influence. The work is part of a statewide collaboration with other Ohio geologists.

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