“For most engineering students, there comes a moment when the long hours spent completing problem sets, writing and rewriting code, and poring over spreadsheets and databases finally makes sense. That’s when students realize that engineering is much more than a set of facts and formulas to be mastered and memorized and instead a powerful way to understand and interact with the world.”
Edward Berger, Associate Dean
At the U.Va. Engineering School we understand that one of the best ways to promote an understanding of engineering and its impact on the world is to encourage undergraduates to roll up their sleeves and get involved in real-world, substantial research. We support our students who wish to develop their own research and public service projects, by providing guidance, contacts and connections to sources of funding. And we welcome undergraduates into our laboratories, where they become integral members of our research groups and, as they gain experience, take on responsibility for increasingly important parts of our research programs.
In the process, undergraduates find themselves applying the engineering principles they learned in the classroom and they learn to think like engineers. They also learn that successful research requires many of the other skills we stress at the Engineering School — collaborating with others, writing clearly and persuasively, and understanding the social and ethical dimensions of their projects.
Undergraduate Research and Design Symposium
Each spring, the Engineering School’s top undergraduates showcase their fourth-year theses in the Dome Room of U.Va.’s Rotunda before a group of industry leaders and faculty members at the Undergraduate Research and Design Symposium. In recent years, topics have ranged from reducing sonic booms through aerodynamic design to interrupting the mutation of influenza viruses.
The Spectra: The Virginia Engineering and Science Research Journal
With their peers producing a rich and diverse body of research that at times rivals graduate-level work, a group of U.Va. Engineering undergraduate students saw the need to share this research with a wider audience. The group published the first issue of the peer-reviewed journal, The Spectra, in spring 2010.
Top Awards from the Computer Research Association (CRA)
For undergraduates in computer science and electrical and computer engineering, the most prestigious award in the nation is winning the Outstanding Undergraduate Award from the CRA. From 1999 to 2008, U.Va. undergraduates won 28 CRA awards, ranking third behind Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Washington. In 2009, Erin Carson (CS ’09) was one of just two runners-up, while Rachel Miller (CS, Physics ’09, Math ’09) placed with 12 finalists, all of whom received third-place awards.
Davis Projects for Peace
In summer 2008, Eric Harshfield and Ana Jemec designed and built a slow-sand filtration system for a village in the Venda region of South Africa using materials they sourced locally. They received a $10,000 award for the project.
National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) Award
A team of students in an upper-level design course in biomedical engineering devised a medical device to treat uterine atony, a condition in which the uterus fails to contract properly after childbirth by cesarean section. The group secured $16,000 in funding for the project from NCIIA and was a finalist in this year’s Engineering School Undergraduate Research and Design Symposium.
A team of 20 U.Va. undergraduates under the direction of Assistant Professor Chris Goyne, are developing a scramjet prototype designed to reach Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. The project is part of the Hy-V program, which brings researchers together from NASA, the Department of Defense and private industry with universities that are members of the Virginia Space Grant Consortium.
The Virginia Genetically Engineered Machine Team is a student-run research group in the area of synthetic biology. It is in its second year of participation in MIT’s international genetically engineered machine competition.