OPPORTUNITY THROUGH RESEARCH
Program brings students from across the country to ECU
June 24, 2016
Undergraduates from colleges across the United States are working on research projects alongside East Carolina University students this summer in two 10-week programs supported by the National Science Foundation.
The Research Experience for Undergraduates, or REU, offers research in computer science and biomedical engineering. Classes are held in the ECU College of Engineering and Technology and the College of Health and Human Performance.
The highly competitive program runs through July 29. This year, 102 students from around the country applied for 10 computer science spots while more than 227 students applied for nine seats in biomedical engineering.
“I wanted a way to apply my background in mathematics to something very practical like software and computer science and I thought this would be a good experience for me in research,” said Elon University senior Nathan Pool.
Pool is one of 10 undergraduates involved in software testing and analytics in the computer science REU.
Across campus, nine students are conducting biomedical engineering research using simulations, imaging, and modeling. Topics range from performing and studying ultrasounds of muscle movement in the arm to analyzing magnetic resonance imaging or MRI of the pulmonary artery to investigating how parts of the brain communicate with each other.
“I love all of the new information and new experiences that I have, especially with neuroscience,” said Temilade Aladeniyi, who is a junior biology major at North Carolina Central University in Durham. “I did not think I’d be coming to an engineering undergraduate research program and be doing neuroscience.”
Although the students change from year to year, some of the research expands on previous projects, according to Dr. Stephanie George, ECU assistant professor of engineering and one of the program organizers.
“Some (research projects) are building year after year with the REU students. Others are newer projects that are just starting up. Some are building on graduate student projects,” said George.
At summer’s end, students will submit an abstract to the biomedical engineering society and present their findings at the group’s annual fall meeting, George said.
“A lot of undergraduates don’t have that opportunity even at the larger institutions, so for these students coming from smaller schools, I think it’s a really good opportunity for them,” she added.
ECU senior John Dixon took part in the computer science REU last summer. Later, he presented his findings at a symposium in Washington, D.C.
“The people at the symposium, I’m meeting people from MIT, I’m meeting people from Stanford, I’m meeting people from all sorts of great universities and maybe they haven’t heard of East Carolina University before, but on this big stage in front of everyone, they were talking about ECU there,” he said.
Dixon said the program opened his eyes to what he could do in the future.
“If I hadn’t participated in the REU, I probably wouldn’t have been exposed to any type of research, and it gave me a great opportunity to get my feet wet,” Dixon said. “I’m now seriously considering getting at least a master’s degree, if not a Ph.D., because of the fact I found the research very interesting.”
The REU allows ECU to showcase its graduate programs to potential students. “It will definitely help us promote our program and attract talented students,” said Dr. Junhua Ding, ECU associate professor of computer science.
Six of 10 computer science students and seven out of nine biomedical engineering students are from other universities.
“I’m getting a really good feel of the campus and the people here and I’m loving it and all the opportunities I’m given, so I think that’s a possibility that I could end up coming here for grad school,” said Wichita State University junior Alex Deghand.
The computer science program was recently funded for a second three-year term after starting in 2013. George plans to apply in August for an additional three years for the biomedical engineering REU. Participating students are paid a $5,000 stipend, receive a housing allowance and meals. They also are reimbursed for travel if they live outside North Carolina.
“It’s probably one of the best opportunities undergraduates have,” Dixon said.