Engineering student research took center stage on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 as Lehigh celebrated the 15th year of the David and Lorriane Freed Undergraduate Research Symposium.
The annual event brings together undergraduate students from Lehigh and Lafayette, offering the researchers an opportunity to present their work from a broad spectrum of engineering disciplines. Students also use the event as a training opportunity by making a formal presentation before a panel of judges, and engaging in conversations with symposium visitors, faculty, students and staff.
This year's event was no exception, featuring research topics including self-driving robotic cars using machine learning, the assembly of binary superlattices from multi-flavored DNA-functionalized particles and the study of sustainable agriculture adoption in Zambia and its effectiveness.
The winner of this year's symposium was Lehigh senior Thomas Farinha. He took first place for his research on "Epitaxial MgO Films Grown on GaN by Atomic Layer Deposition: Growth Temperature Dependence and Thermal Stability." Farihna's work was supported by assistant professor Nick Strandwitz.
"Research at the undergraduate level was a great experience, which encouraged me to enroll in graduate school," said Farinha. "I learned so much from the professors and mentors in the Materials Science department at Lehigh, and was also able to complete the work because of the excellent equipment they have available for students."
Farinha, a Rossin Junior Fellow, will graduate this spring with a B.S. in materials science and engineering and a minor in nanotechnology. He plans to attend graduate school at the University of Maryland and earn his Ph.D. in materials science.
Junior Michelle Kent, another materials science and engineering major, earned second place honors for her research on "Microstructural Evolution of Dissimilar Metal Welds involving Grade 91 Steel." Kent, a Clare Boothe Luce Research Scholar, was supported by her advisor, professor John DuPont.
Scholarships to professional conferences were awarded to the winners, and all visitors from the Lehigh community participated in the symposium by casting their vote for the "People’s Choice Award."
This year's winner of the People's Choice Award was senior Divya Patel for her work on "3D Printing with Peptide-Polymer Conjugates to Regenerate the Osteochondral Interface." The Bioengineering major received support from her advisor, assistant professor Lesley Chow.
Developed by materials science professors Himanshu Jain and Wojciech Misiolek and endowed by alumnus Andrew Freed '83 in honor of his parents, the symposium showcases undergraduate research achievement and encourages Lehigh students to enrich their learning experience through research.
"Conducting research as an undergraduate pushes students beyond the classroom," said Misiolek. "Hands-on research with post-docs and professors can help students decide if they want to do research or not, both being valuable lessons. It pushes students to explore beyond the textbook."
"This event simulates what a professional national meeting would be like," explained Jain. "Time is limited, and students have to be able to articulate and condense their research. You have to push them out of their comfort-zone."
The 2018 UGRS winners are:

VIDEO: Lehigh IBE & ISE students Sam Presti, Jack Circus & Logan Herr present their research, "Self-Driving Robotic Car Using Machine Learning And Image Recognition," to the judges at the 2018 Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Thomas Farinha (left) and Rossin Engineering Dean Stephen P. DeWeerth.

Thomas Farinha (left), winner of the 2018 Undergraduate Research Symposium, is honored by Lehigh Rossin Engineering Dean Stephen P. DeWeerth. (Photo by John Kish IV photography / Lehigh University)

Angela Sinani

Miki Sankary, Lehigh Development Associate, and Siddha Pimputkar (center), assistant professor of materials science and engineering, talk with bioengineering student Angela Sinani about her research, "Design and Optimization of a Cholesterol-Binding Pepti

Megan Bellinger

IDEAS senior Megan Bellinger (left) presents her research, "Modeling Crop Yields in Zambia Using Climate, Soil, and Survey Data," to a UGRS visitor. (Photo by John Kish IV photography / Lehigh University)