SEAS students win showcase

Engineering students took home cash prizes at a showcase Wednesday for outstanding research and development projects, in front of a packed crowd of professionals from laboratories and engineering companies.

Of the 57 projects from masters and doctoral candidates in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, three students won cash prizes. The projects included a computer-guided surgery for voice disorders and a presentation about the frequency of aviation accidents.

“These projects are very cutting-edge in a practical way,” said Dianne Martin, SEAS interim dean for student affairs and a professor of computer science. She added that student projects were largely representative of applied research and would have immediate use in their respective fields.

University President Steven Knapp was among about 700 attendees, who also included chairs of the engineering department.

The showcase’s keynote speaker, Richard O. Buckius, the National Science Foundation’s assistant director for engineering, said he was excited by the scope of the student research.

He said the range of exciting upcoming engineering presentations include a nanowire transmission of a Star Wars theme song and patterns of cell phone usage around Rome during a soccer game.

Carol Sigelman, associate vice president graduate studies and academic affairs, agreed that Wednesday’s showcase was exceptional.

“It’s interesting to see the variety of projects and how they’re closely related to the trends in the presentation,” she said.

Student projects came from across all graduate programs in SEAS, but a large number of the projects featured the electrical and computer engineering department.

Two graduate environmental engineering students, Sebnem Aynur and Sandip Chaterjee, collaborated on a research project that evaluated how municipal sludge could be most effectively turned into fertilizer.

Aynur, a doctoral student, said she chose her project because she was interested in biological treatment.

“Sludge treatment is a popular topic and it’s good to know that whatever you are doing will be applied in the real world,” Aynur said.

She said the D.C. Water and Sewage Authority has decided to utilize their idea.

Graduate student Daryl Stone chose an unconventional area of research for a computer science doctoral candidate. By conducting interviews of black male students of all ages, he investigated how to involve this demographic in possible computer science careers.

“I found there were journals and conferences for women in computing and the sciences,” Stone said. “That’s great, but there weren’t similar things for African American males.”

SEAS organizers invited heads of area national laboratories and a list of more than 700 representatives.

Randy Graves, who headed the planning committee for the showcase, said the quality of the presentations were significantly “more focused, more professional” than last year’s showcase.

“(The students) now know how to present their project to the public,” he said. “The national agencies are looking at the project and at the student. We want to make sure they have interaction with potential employers.”

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