College Undergraduates Experience Research at New Summer Program
Twelve undergraduate students gained valuable hands-on experience in research through a new program at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK) campus. The 2012 Research for Undergraduates (REU) program was the first for the Center for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Network (CURENT), an Engineering Research Center co-funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy and headquartered at UTK.
Undergraduates normally do not get to conduct research. REU is a full time, eight-week program that gives students with diverse backgrounds and an interest in CURENT’s work that opportunity. The experience gives the students a sense of the nature research and engineering and long-term opportunities so they are better prepared to pursue careers in these fields. Among the 2012 participants at UTK, 38% were women and 38% were from other underrepresented groups, including African American and Latino. Students from schools with limited research opportunities also participated.
The REU program aims to integrate research and education to accelerate innovation while improving the quality and diversity of engineering graduates entering the technical workforce. UTK’s summer students were exposed to engineering and research career opportunities in industry, academia, and government. They also gained knowledge of professional development, as well as visited a power station, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and a local wind farm. Each student conducted a research project on the topic of their choice, selected from a field including power transmission, power electronics, renewable energy, smart home design, electricity market structures, and cyber security. They also participated in bi-weekly/weekly meetings and other scheduled events. At the end of the program, students presented their research at a special symposium.