Sixty-six students receive undergraduate research award

Sixty-six students taking part in Tech’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) have received the President’s Undergraduate Research Award (PURA) for the 2008 Fall semester.

This award comes in the form of either a $1500 student salary for research or a $1000 grant for travel expenses if undergraduates attend conferences. Through PURA, the UROP provides funds to research teams so that they can encourage and support students who are involved in research projects.

According to Karen Harwell, director of Undergraduate Research, former Institute President Wayne Clough and the Georgia Tech Research Corporation started PURA in 2002, with the first awards being distributed that fall.

“[Clough] really wanted to support undergraduate research and particularly wanted to open it up in areas that were not necessarily very involved [with research],” Harwell said.

“There is not as much research that goes on in architecture, management and Ivan Allen, and we wanted a way to support undergraduate research in those areas. So we set up a $300,000 a year fund to be able to do that. [It] has been administered for seven years and had about 1400 students receive awards.”

Adam Jakus, a senior MSE major, was one of the PURA awardees for this semester. This is his second semester as a PURA recipient.

“Being a PURA recipient has enabled me to pursue my research this semester with increased determination and motivation,” Jakus said. “I have been given an opportunity to continue my research, which has certainly enhanced my experience as an undergraduate and will give me an advantage in applying to and working in graduate school.”

His project is titled “Modeling and Simulation of the Impact Response of Linear Cellular Alloys for Structural Energetic Material Applications.”

Ginger Tsai, a third-year BME major, is a PURA recipient who also received the award for a second time.

“PURA is a wonderful experience. It’s great being able to do your own project [and] having your own goal in mind and your own plan. It really helps you stay focused, and it makes you think and solve your own problems,” Tsai said.

“I feel like I’m becoming a better independent researcher, and my technical research skills have greatly improved. With no one spoon-feeding me everything, I feel a lot more like a member of the lab rather than an unknown undergraduate,” she said.

Tsai’s paper is titled, “Optimization of the Fabrication of Polymer Microneedles Encapsulated with Flu Vaccines.”

Students should not make the assumption that only engineering students can be involved in the research program, although the majority of students at Tech are engineering majors. PURA awardees include students in computer science, building construction, economics, management, psychology and other majors.

Undergraduate students of any major are eligible to engage in undergraduate research and apply for the awards. Each year at Tech, over 1300 undergraduate students participate in research and over 200 of those students are funded through PURA. The award is open to all undergraduate students who have good standing at Tech.

Students are eligible to receive one salary award per academic year, but they may apply for the $1000 awards for travel expenses within the same academic year. Since its inception, nearly $2 million has been awarded to Tech students through PURA.