Two summer undergraduate research cohorts in Opus College of Engineering tackle real-world problems

Engineering research labs across Marquette’s campus were abuzz this summer with visiting students and Marquette engineers completing research alongside faculty experts to develop their technical and professional skills.

Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site program

Through a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site grant in Marquette’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, 10 undergraduates from institutions around the country spent their summer in Milwaukee and on Marquette’s campus. This was the third iteration of this REU site, continuing with the theme of hardware, embedded software and analytics for environmental quality monitoring. The program was led by Dr. Cris Ababei, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Dr. Majeed Hayat, chair and professor of electrical and computer engineering, with additional faculty mentors participating across engineering departments. The cohort included students from Arizona State University, Cornell University, Dallas College, University of Arizona, University of Michigan, TCU, Trinity University and Marquette University.

Under the theme of environmental quality monitoring, students led projects such as remote sensing and machine learning to predict green infrastructure maintenance needs, algorithmic spectrometry to detect algae, novel devices to measure black carbon concentration in the air, and more.

A visiting REU site student pilots a drone for a project to study green infrastructure.

Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows

In addition to this NSF-funded initiative, the Opus College also hosted a cohort of 15 Marquette undergraduate engineers through the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF) program. Through SURF, current Marquette undergraduate students partnered with faculty across all departments to lead research projects throughout the summer. This annual program offers key experiential learning opportunities for Marquette engineers and is made possible by generous supporters of the Opus College of Engineering.

There is no single theme for the SURF program, and projects vary each year depending on the latest research priorities of the participating faculty. Projects ranged from analyzing 3D printing materials for biomedical applications to studying the impact of disinfectants on wastewater treatment and antibiotic resistance.

Three Marquette engineers in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows program collaborate in a materials testing lab.

Hands-on opportunities to develop research and technical skills

Both the REU site program and SURF program engaged students throughout the summer in professional development series to support their growth beyond their technical skills. Topics across both programs included entrepreneurship, technical communication, graduate school discernment and more. Additionally, both programs compensated students for their work through wages or stipends, making these hands-on experiences more accessible to all students.

The REU cohort toured the Harley-Davidson Museum for an opportunity to explore Milwaukee and its engineering history.

The REU site program concluded this month with a joint-poster session alongside a separate REU site being run by Marquette’s Computer Science Department. At the poster session, students had the opportunity to present a summer’s worth of data and findings while also celebrating their growth as researchers.

The Opus College’s SURF program has formally concluded for the summer, but several of the undergraduate students will continue to lead research alongside faculty throughout the academic year. Later this semester, SURF students will gather for Undergraduate Research Day in Engineering Hall to showcase their work to faculty, staff, students, and families.

“These programs are a wonderful opportunity for Marquette faculty to mentor the next generation of engineering leaders in research environments that tackle real-world problems,” said Dr. Kristina Ropella, Opus Dean of the Opus College of Engineering. “Students from Marquette and across the country will carry on in their professional and academic careers with skill sets and mindsets picked up from our engineering experts.”

Current and future undergraduate engineering students at Marquette are encouraged to explore undergraduate research here. Undergraduate students from around the country can also explore the REU site program here.