Rutgers Engineering Students Dive into Research

At Rutgers School of Engineering, education goes far beyond the classroom. Undergraduate students make important contributions to Rutgers’ research and innovation efforts by partnering with faculty in independent study courses, completing capstone design projects and participating in university-sponsored research programs such as Aresty Summer Research.

“Few institutions can match the depth and breadth of the research capabilities and talent at Rutgers Engineering,” said Peng Song, associate dean for undergraduate education at the School of Engineering. “Undergraduate research gives students an opportunity to work with experts in their field, exposes students to state-of-the-art facilities and technology, and prepares students for advanced studies or a professional career in engineering and other fields.” 

Below, we feature several students who have embarked on a range of research paths to showcase the scope of opportunity found at Rutgers School of Engineering.

Sophia Blanc

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Sophia Blanc, a civil and environmental engineering junior, conducts research on combined sewer overflows as a potential source of antibiotic resistance genes in the environment. She joined civil and environmental engineering assistant professor Nicole Fahrenfeld’s team the summer after her freshman year and is currently working on an eco-friendly disinfectant that will kill pathogens carrying the resistance genes within sewer systems.

“This experience has truly enriched my understanding of the impact that engineers and scientists can have on the communities we live in,” Blanc said. “Further, it has kick-started my career, providing me with hands-on, widely applicable experience that enables me to feel more confident as I search for internships and eventually full-time jobs.”

This summer, Blanc will travel to Tennessee to work as a construction field engineering intern for Bechtel Corporation, the largest construction and civil engineering company in the United States. She hopes to pursue a career in environmental engineering with a focus on either water or sustainable structures.

Sophia Pastore

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Sophia Pastore is a civil and environmental engineering (CEE) sophomore who spent last summer studying train safety with CEE assistant professor Xiang Liu as part of the Aresty Summer Science Program. She investigated ballast particles, the rocks alongside and between railroad tracks, that can take flight when trains reach high speeds and damage surrounding objects, people and the train body. Pastore explored the forces from the train that are the largest contributing factors and the methods that can be used to reduce flight.

“My research opened me up to transportation engineering, something I did not really know much about and showed to me I would possibly be interested in pursuing it in the future,” said Pastore, who is also a member of the Engineering Honors Academy.

Research opportunities also help students fine-tune their interest areas. Pastore notes that her research, which was largely theoretical, taught her that she prefers more hands-on projects.

Forest Song

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Mechanical engineering sophomore Forest Song embarked on a research project to develop a table tennis-playing robot. His final creation can serve up to 50 balls anywhere on the opposing side of the table, using three motors to generate four types of spin.

Song, an Honors Academy student, said he was motivated by his talented friends to learn as much as possible by pursuing an innovative project. “Doing this project allowed me to learn a lot about myself and gain a lot of technical skills,” Song said. He encourages other students to pursue their own research projects to add another dimension to their engineering education.

Laura Kershaw

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Packaging engineering sophomore Laura Kershaw researched nanoelectronics last summer under the guidance of materials science and engineering professor Koray Akdogan as part of the Rutgers Aresty Summer Science program. Her project involved writing code in MATLAB —a programming language commonly used by engineers and scientists—to determine the behavior of ferroelectric thin films under different strain values. “We came up with some publishable data and graphs that Professor Akdogan is still working with,” Kershaw said.

Kershaw greatly values her Aresty experience but decided to veer off the research path. This semester, she chose to take advantage of Rutgers’ cooperative education (co-op) opportunities and currently works at Colgate Palmolive as a packaging co-op.