Texas A&M Delivers Undergrad Research With LAUNCH Expo

Undergraduate engineering students, left to right, Richard Garner, Michael Neal, Matthew Henriksen, Daniel Agudelo and Jorge Roa, prepare to give their poster presentation on the 3D printer they built from scratch under the direction of graduate leader Wenchao Du and engineering faculty adviser Chao Ma at the LAUNCH Expo.

By Elena Watts, Texas A&M Division of Marketing and Communications

Matthew Henriksen, a Texas A&M University undergraduate engineering student, leaned over to adjust the 3D printer that he helped build from scratch at the LAUNCH: Undergraduate Research Expo on the university’s main campus in College Station Oct. 3.

Daniel Agudelo, another undergraduate engineering student, grabbed a miniature ceramic horse from atop the printer, rubbed his thumb over the intricate details and opened his palm to show the figurine created by their printer. Against a poster backdrop that succinctly outlined their project, the two took turns explaining their research to event attendees.

“LAUNCH serves as the hub of information in terms of a one-stop shop for research opportunities and getting involved,” Caroline Sonnier, program assistant for LAUNCH: Undergraduate Research, said. “Our office is a gathering place and a connecting point between faculty looking for student researchers and students looking for opportunities.”

Henriksen and Agudelo are part of an eight-member team of undergraduate students working on the 3D printer project under the direction of graduate leader Wenchao Du and engineering faculty adviser Chao Ma, and the technology they are exploring holds promise for biomedical, wear-resistant and aerospace applications.

Their poster presentation accompanied many others in a room devoted to student presenters in the Aggie Research Program, a research-intensive community marked by team-based projects. The Aggie Research Program Poster Session provided examples of research opportunities leveraged by undergraduate and graduate students for those who attended the daylong event, which occupied five rooms of the Memorial Student Center.

Dillon Jones, a wildlife and fisheries sciences undergraduate student, helps the LAUNCH: Undergraduate Research staff with the daylong LAUNCH Expo. In addition to engaging in research projects, Jones serves as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador.

Additionally, the expo provided a resource fair, workshops and networking opportunities to help faculty, administrators, staff, graduate students and undergraduate students explore undergraduate research opportunities.

“So much of what we do as graduate students is in preparation for roles in industry or academia, so by involving undergraduates in our work, we not only gain more material help in conducting the research, but also the experience of leading and mentoring teams, which we will be expected to do when we take positions after graduation,” Andrew McNeely, sociology doctoral candidate and director of the Aggie Research Program, said. “The undergraduate students gain real-world exposure to research projects actually happening at Texas A&M and hands-on training working in team environments, and they walk away with another credential they can include on their resumes.”

Dillon Jones, a wildlife and fisheries sciences undergraduate student, has participated in more than one undergraduate research project during his time at Texas A&M. His work afforded him opportunities to travel to Panama and Brazil, and his latest research, which he is in the process of compiling for publication, allowed him to examine reptile and amphibian development inside an urban nature sanctuary in downtown Houston. His paper, “Tearing Down the Wall Between Animal Sounds and Human Music,” published in Explorations: The Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal.

“The Belize experience was most fascinating because I had the good fortune of exploring an incredibly understudied area,” Jones said. “So, I felt like an old-school naturalist, kind of like a Darwin, going out and finding stuff no one else knew about.”

Jones also serves as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador through the LAUNCH office to “help students find that research project they always wanted to do, and be a phenomenal resource and mentor.”

“New projects are established every semester, so there is always something to be gained by exploring the project list on the website or contacting team leaders to see what they have on deck as far as plans for the future,” Jones said.

The Speed Research Networking Panel followed by a networking social concluded the expo. Twenty-eight faculty and staff from various disciplines across campus presented 60-second blurbs on their research and opportunities for undergraduates. Among the presenters were Lisa Campbell, an oceanography professor, who pitched opportunities for students to research the effects of Hurricane Harvey, and Marian Eide, associate professor of English, who focused on opportunities for students to explore the future of work.

Visit the LAUNCH: Undergraduate Research webpage for more information about undergraduate research opportunities or the LAUNCH program website for a full list of offerings.


Media contact: Associate Director and Full Professor Dr. Sarah M. Misemer at 979-845-1957 or ugr@tamu.edu


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