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E-news Online May 2010

Research Symposium Highlights Graduate Work

By Kathryn Welsh

Photo By Zak Richards
Rebekah Neal, a biomedical engineering Ph.D. student, was awarded first prize at UVERS for her research on ways to improve the healing process of traumatic peripheral nervous system injuries.
Photo By Zak Richards
The UVERS top five finishers from left to right: Rebekah Neal (BME), Thomas Bliss (MAE), Justin Erwin (Engr. Pysics), Ernie Perez (ChE) and Scott Kasen (MSE).

Aircraft able to travel at hypersonic speeds, Mach 5 or greater, have military, space and civilian applications. Although these applications have tremendous potential, a number of substantial engineering challenges must be met to provide safe, reliable and reusable vehicles. Scott Kasen, a Ph.D. student in materials science and engineering, is working to overcome one of these challenges by designing an advanced material system to meet the thermal demands at the leading edges on an aircraft’s body.

Kasen was one of 18 graduate Engineering students who presented their research on April 14 as part of the University of Virginia Engineering Research Symposium, or UVERS. This event gave U.Va. Engineering School graduate students the chance to show their research to fellow students and faculty while also competing against each other for recognition and monetary prizes.

UVERS was started five years ago by a group of graduate students who wanted to share their peers’ research with the University community. The symposium is sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies and run by the Graduate Engineering Student Council (GESC).

“The research symposium was very successful this year,” says Jiawei Huang, GESC president and Ph.D. student in computer engineering. “We were very excited to showcase the exciting research that is happening at the Engineering School to over 200 students and faculty members and representatives from the U.Va. Patent Foundation.”

At the end of the day, a panel of Engineering School faculty judges awarded the contestants with certificates and monetary prizes ranging from $50 to $1,500. The atmosphere of competition added to the energy of the UVERS event.

Graduate students who benefited from the interactive nature the event included Rebekah Neal, who was awarded first prize. Neal was recognized for her innovative research on ways to improve the healing process of traumatic peripheral nervous system injuries.

“The UVERS competition was a great way for me to present my research to a new and fresh audience,” Neal said. “It is always interesting for me to get a fresh perspective and useful feedback from those outside of my field, from other engineering departments or industry.”