EWD Update: 2022 CISTAR Summer Programs

CISTAR labs were full of visiting researchers this summer as all of our educational programs resumed in-person activities! Faculty and graduate mentors worked with undergraduates for the REU and REM programs at Purdue, the RET program continued for its third year at Texas  and each campus hosted two high school students in the Young Scholars program. In all, 32 individuals gained research experience with CISTAR. 

Young Scholars

The Young Scholars program was coordinated across all the CISTAR universities giving high school students who live close to each campus the opportunity to do hands-on research with CISTAR faculty and graduate student mentors. The experience allowed the students to learn new techniques and included presenting their work in a poster session at the end of the six weeks. In addition to their lab work the students met online each week to connect with one another and learn about a variety of topics about energy and careers. They met with faculty in science and engineering and learned about future developments in the energy sector from an industry speaker from bp.  The program finished with an in-person poster session at each campus giving the students an opportunity to develop their visual communication skills and their oral presentation skills.

Drew Braden, Expert Engineer - New Conversions, Scale-up & Demonstration at bp
Drew Braden, Expert Engineer - New Conversions, Scale-up & Demonstration at bp.
Professor Joaquin Resasco from UTA speaks to the students during the Science and Engineering session.
Professor Joaquin Resasco from UTA speaks to the students during the Science and Engineering session.

One student shared:

“It was really an awesome experience and gave me a lot of insight into what kind of future I may have as an undergraduate and even graduate student. I feel that this experience gave me the greatest boost from a high school academic standpoint to that of higher education. Through this entire process, I have certainly learned an extensive amount about conducting and presenting research.”  

Young Scholars Favour Onafeso, Professor David Allen’s lab, and Lillyanna Castillo, Professor Joan Brennecke’s lab,  present at the UTA.
Young Scholars Favour Onafeso, Professor David Allen’s lab, and Lillyanna Castillo, Professor Joan Brennecke’s lab, present at the UTA poster session.
Young Scholars Aaviskar Khatiwada and Erika Ruiz-Yamamoto With Professor Jason Hicks at Notre Dame.
Young Scholars Aaviskar Khatiwada and Erika Ruiz-Yamamoto with Professor Jason Hicks at Notre Dame.
Young Scholar Rinad Bin-Mahfoudh with her mentor Post Doc Santiago Salas and Professor Jennifer Dunn at Northwestern.
Young Scholar Rinad Bin-Mahfoudh with her mentor Post Doc Santiago Salas and Professor Jennifer Dunn at Northwestern.

Research Experience for Teachers (RET) 

The University of Texas at Austin hosted its third year of the Research Experience for Teachers Program. Over the summer of 2022, five science and math teachers from local high schools participated in a five-and-a-half-week program where they worked alongside faculty and graduate students and participated in high-level research projects within the field of materials science. In addition to the research component, RET staff and faculty helped guide teachers to develop and teach materials science-based lessons that connect current research to 9-12 curricula science and mathematics curricula in the classroom and promote science as an exciting career field that allows students to apply their math and science education to real-world problems. All the teachers had the opportunity to work closely with TeachEngineering staff, receive feedback on their lessons, and have the chance to submit their lessons to the TeachEngineering website after implementing the lessons this academic year.  The participants also joined in personal and professional development workshops and seminars around engaging students in STEM and engineering thinking

RET Schedule Highlights:

  • Strategies to Engage All Students in STEM led by Tricia Berry (Executive Director WiSTEM)
  • Engineering Habits of Mind workshop
  • Design Based Learning workshop
  • Careers in Engineering Panel, Faculty: Lydia Contreras, Manish Kumar, & Joaquin Resasco
Ellen Lukasik, teacher at Success High School in Austin, TX conducts research in Professor Joan Brennecke’s lab
Ellen Lukasik, a teacher at Success High School in Austin, TX conducts research in Professor Joan Brennecke’s lab.
Kristina Bradford, teacher at Eastview High School in Austin, TX  and Joel Graves, her graduate mentor at UTA, conduct an experiment in Professor Joaquin Resasco’s lab.
Kristina Bradford, a teacher at Eastview High School in Austin, TX, and Joel Graves, her graduate mentor at UTA, conduct an experiment in Professor Joaquin Resasco’s lab.

Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)

The CISTAR REU program brought undergraduate students to Purdue for a 10-week research program on Purdue’s campus. After two years of virtual programming, it was wonderful to host the students for an in-person session. 

The REU students participated in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, attending these weekly sessions 

  • Literature Search and Review
  • Is Graduate School the Answer?
  • Industry Panel
  • Technical Abstract Workshop
  • Graduate School Funding & Fellowship Opportunities
  • Faculty Panel Discussion - Insight Into the Research Process
  • Research Commercialization
  • Federal Agencies and Labs
  • Science Storytelling
  • Preparing for a Symposium Presentation

Students presented posters, made final presentations, and wrote technical papers about their projects.

Left: Teah Scott from Howard University, REU student who participated in the REM program in 2021, conducts an experiment in Professor Raj Gounder’s lab. Right: Kayla Richardson from North Carolina A&T in Professor Jeff Miller’s lab
Left: Teah Scott from Howard University, an REU student who participated in the REM program in 2021, conducts an experiment in Professor Raj Gounder’s lab. Right: Kayla Richardson from North Carolina A&T in Professor Jeff Miller’s lab.

Research Experience and Mentoring

This was the third summer CISTAR was awarded a supplemental grant from NSF to offer its unique Research Experience and Mentoring (REM) combined program, where students conduct research for six weeks and then spend four weeks mentoring 3rd-5th graders with the National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE) Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) program. This year, 10 students came to Purdue and spent six weeks participating in a research project with a graduate student mentor while attending professional development sessions and interacting with industry members.

NSBE Seek logo and group of children from a SEEK camp
Group of children from one of the SEEK camps.

The theme for the program was Energy for Our Growing World (how a wide range of energy sources serves the needs of people and communities in our changing world). Research projects, field trips, and industry talks were organized around this theme. 

Working in the lab, doing research, and working with a graduate student mentor were identified as major strengths of the program. As one REM student shared, “Our grad mentors have been helpful…making sure they ask us how we are doing if we need help with anything…the extra support is good.” All the students said they have had a positive experience with the program and learned more about research and working in a lab.

Both REM and REU students took tours related to the program’s energy theme.

Students visit Photovoltaic Panel System for Agricultural Setting in Tippecanoe County.
Students visit Photovoltaic Panel System for Agricultural Setting in Tippecanoe County.
Students visit zEDGE Tiny House to see sustainability research project
Students visit zEDGE Tiny House to see a sustainability research project.
REM students attend a Check-in meeting with graduate assistants.
REM students attend a check-in meeting with graduate assistants.

Similar to the 2021 program, industry participation was a key piece of both the REM and the REU programs. bp, Dow, ExxonMobil, Honeywell, Sabic, and Shell participated.

Some of the participants in our industry speaker series. Zhenwei Wu from Shell, Drew Braden from bp, Brant Cassimere from ExxonMobil.
Some of the participants in our industry speaker series. Zhenwei Wu from Shell, Drew Braden from bp, Brant Cassimere from ExxonMobil.

One student said, “I really like the industry speakers. I enjoyed their diversity. Hearing a different perspective that isn’t in your lab and hearing about different paths you can take. Also hearing a different point of view with other students in CISTAR and hearing their questions and working through them together has been interesting.”

In addition to the weekly industry presentations, both the REM and REU groups had a separate pair of industry mentors who met with them regularly to discuss career paths, the energy sector, and other topics identified by the student participants. In this photo, REU industry mentors, Johnny Zhuchen and Nicole Libretto (both alumni of Jeff Miller’s lab who now work at Honeywell) meet with the students to talk about the job application process.

About the industry mentor sessions, one student said, “I like the continuous meeting to build a connection rather than seeing them once and potentially never again. I also liked that they let us shape the topics we would discuss and they encouraged us to be engaged.”

REM and REU students and their mentors in Professor Raj Gounder’s lab.
REM and REU students and their mentors in Professor Raj Gounder’s lab.

Both programs had culminating programs as the session came to a close. The REM students participated in a poster session in early July, before they left campus to begin their SEEK session. 

Nelanne Bolima from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) shares the results of her project during the REM poster session.
Nelanne Bolima from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) shares the results of her project during the REM poster session.

An awards presentation brought REM students, faculty, and graduate mentors together to celebrate the accomplishments of the students.

Michael Roberts from Tuskegee University and Keylin Boyd from Texas Christian University with Professor Cornelius Masuku.
Michael Roberts from Tuskegee University and Keylin Boyd from Texas Christian University with Professor Cornelius Masuku.

The REU students participated in two poster sessions and made a final presentation at the SURF Summer Research Symposium in early August. These presentations were attended by faculty and graduate students from across the university.

Brian Garcia Hernandez from the University of Rochester, who worked with Professor Cornelius Masuku
Brian Garcia Hernandez from the University of Rochester, who worked with Professor Cornelius Masuku
Arianna Adkisson, an REU student from Norfolk State University, conducted research in Professor Jeff Miller’s lab
Arianna Adkisson, an REU student from Norfolk State University, conducted research in Professor Jeff Miller’s lab.
Lauren Oleksy from Clarkson University, an REU student who worked with Hwiyoon Noh, from Professor Brian Tackett’s la,b and Justin Rosa, from Professor Raj Gounder’s lab, was recognized with the Best Presentation Award from Purdue’s Summer Undergraduate Fellowship program (SURF), with more than 100 participants.
Lauren Oleksy from Clarkson University, an REU student who worked with Hwiyoon Noh, from Professor Brian Tackett’s la,b and Justin Rosa, from Professor Raj Gounder’s lab, was recognized with the Best Presentation Award from Purdue’s Summer Undergraduate Fellowship program (SURF), with more than 100 participants.
REM and REU students took a trip to Chicago together!
REM and REU students took a trip to Chicago together!

As the program ended, one student said, “I absolutely would [recommend it]. Not only because of the research and professional development. But also, the people I met. Having people and finding activities to do that was fun, I really enjoyed that. I felt like we could be friends long term. It will also give people a chance to learn more about graduate school. This program changed my perspective of research as a whole.”

Overall, the summer programs were a big success thanks to the outstanding efforts of our graduate mentors and program staff. A big thank you to all who participated.