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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Academics & Research

Students present new findings at Undergraduate Research Day


Undergraduate research day

Mechanical engineering senior Jarrett Lonsford used robots to test more secure ways to transmit data from the seafloor to the ocean’s surface. | Michael Slaten/The Cougar

More than 200 undergraduates presented their research with posters or oral presentations at the 2017 Undergraduate Research Day on Thursday at M.D. Anderson Library.

Undergraduate Research Day allowed students who participated in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship this past summer or had a substantial research project to present their findings.

SURF is a 10-week research program for undergraduates who are at least sophomore and have a research topic they want to tackle under the guidance of a faculty mentor.

Mechanical engineering senior Jarrett Lonsford, who presented at the event, said he tested a more secure way to transmit data from the seafloor to the ocean’s surface for his project. He said remotely operated robots were placed in the water to deploy sensor modules, which collected data before resurfacing.

“The main ways that data is transmitted currently is through acoustic communications, which has a low data-transfer rate and is not very secure, because anyone can listen in on the sound,” Lonsford said.

His mentor on the research was electrical and computer engineering assistant professor Aaron Becker. Lonsford had been working in a research lab for a year when he was approached if he would help with the project, he said.

“I learned a lot of basically waterproofing and how to operate different things underwater (and) buoyancy control,” Lonsford said.

English senior Aubrey Cowley worked with English professor Ann Christensen to develop a modern edition of the Renaissance play “A Warning for Fair Woman” with footnotes and definitions. Cowley said she did her research under SURF after reading the play in Christensen’s class.

“Dr. Christensen approached me when I was in one of her classes, and I’ve really been enjoying discussing it,” Cowley said. “I learned a lot about the time period and how complicated it was overall. Early modern England, we have kind of a picture of what Shakespearean times were. But there were a lot of conflicting cultural ideas, and this was a great demonstration of that.”

The edition of the play Cowley worked on received an advanced publication contract with the University of Nebraska editorial board, according to her presentation poster at the event.

Cowley said that undergraduates are recommended to do research even if they do not plan to attend graduate school.

Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research Karen Weber said that engaging in research allows students to make contributions to their fields of study.

“After a 10-week project like SURF, then you’re really the expert for all purposes on one narrow aspect of your field,” Weber said. “And not only can you present at Undergraduate Research Day, but at conferences within your discipline.”

Weber and Cowley said the best way for an undergraduate to get started in research is to ask professors if they can assist them.

“I think it’s probably the best way to get to know a professor within your discipline,” Weber said. “You’re going to know them outside of the classroom, working on problem-solving, troubleshooting and bringing a problem to fruition.”

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