This Thursday, the Bossone Research Center will fill up with a group of rising sophomores eager to tell everyone about their summers. But in true Drexel University fashion, they won’t be talking about the beaches they hit or the festival shows they attended. Instead, they’ll be sharing the findings of research conducted with faculty and professional mentors over the past few months as part of the annual STAR Summer Showcase.
The STAR (Students Tackling Advanced Research) Scholars Program, run by Drexel’s Office of Undergraduate Research, has been around for 15 years, and the showcase began in 2007. It’s a chance for the group, which this year has 173 members across 49 majors, to report back on the projects they each spent 350 hours working on this summer. The research is predictably diverse, given that the students come from 10 different colleges and schools — some studied functional fabrics and wearable technology, while others delved into biomimicry, looking for ways to imitate snails’ heat-resistant adaptations in order to create off-grid refrigeration. One student looked at wage rigidity in the U.S. economy, while another studied the marketing behind the Pixar movie “Finding Dory.”
Among this year’s group of scholars, 10 Dragons took the opportunity to go off-campus and complete their projects at external sites as far abroad as India. Raman Mathur, a mechanical engineering student in the College of Engineering, spent eight weeks at the University of Sussex in England, fabricating parts to be used for solar cell construction and synthesizing graphene. The experience opened his eyes to some of the realities of science in the field.
“What was immediately apparent and struck me as odd was the pace of science,” said Mathur. “Due to the rigor we seek as scientists, some days seem excruciatingly slow, and the painstakingly obtained results may not turn out as desired. Yet people persevere for their passion or for a paycheck. I'm fine with either as long as we inch toward sustainability.”
Joshua McGuckin, a biomedical engineering major in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, was also in Sussex for the summer, doing nanotechnology research to improve the efficiency of a device that uses sunlight to split water into hydrogen and oxygen for fuel. The experience was personally and intellectually rewarding, he said.
“I learned a lot about working in a research laboratory with close co-workers all willing to help each other out,” said McGuckin. “I also learned how to synthesize nanorods in a very cheap and efficient way, which has a variety of applications in many fields, from chemical catalysts to drug-delivery vectors.”
In addition to McGuckin and Mathur’s work in England, Drexel students worked externally at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (Dharman Anandarajan, a biological sciences major in the College of Arts and Sciences, who studied trends in opioid prescription for ACL patients); the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras (Mayank Patel and Arun Balaji, biomedical engineering students studying muscle fatigue); and with ZSX Medical, a local biomedical device startup (Amy Tieu and Hang Truong, biomedical engineering majors who studied the company’s surgical clips), among others.
All of these projects — and many more — will be on display Thursday, when the STAR Scholars get their chance to shine.