As a graduate student at Texas A&M University, I have had the privilege to mentor many students for research projects and competitions. Below, I discuss each of my experiences mentoring undergraduate students, the outcomes, as well as some things that I learned along the way.
Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU): Funded through NSF, undergraduate students are recruited from universities throughout the US to work with graduate students at Texas A&M University on various research projects. At the end of the 10 week period, the REU students from all disciplines and research areas present their research in a judged poster presentation format. Typically 60-80 students are judged in the same session from many different research areas. Find out more using the link :
Summer 2017: I had just begun my PhD and started my research project on database development and high-throughput experimentation. A mechanical engineering student from University of Massachusetts, Megan Scribner, worked with me for a 10 week period, and at the end of the 10 weeks, she was to present the research as part of the competition. As a new PhD student, I encouraged her to also help with other graduate students and learn as much as she could from the more senior students while she was at Texas A&M. She did exactly that, helping nearly everyone in our lab group with experimental work or SolidWorks. She placed first and did an outstanding job, one of the best students I have worked with. I learned that as a mentor, if I do not have the expertise to teach my student, it is my job to find and point my students in the direction of someone that does.
Summer 2018: This REU session was a bit more difficult to handle as I was in Ohio for a NASA GRC internship. I communicated long distance with my student and we spent most evening and weekends on Skype coding together and setting up experimental procedures. Although he did not place, I am still very proud of how much he learned in the small time frame through distance learning. I learned a lot of dos and don’ts about distance education and will be better prepared should I need to use distance learning in the future.
Summer 2020: This upcoming REU session, I will have two students, both distance learning students. Due to COVID-19, the REU has moved fully online, and given that my research topic is very new and can be fully online, I picked up a few students and plan on mentoring more throughout the summer session as some professors may need some extra help.
Consortium for the Advancement of Shape Memory Alloy Research and Technology (CASMART) Competition: CASMART is a community of researchers dedicated to shape memory alloy research and every two years, they host a competition for undergraduate and graduate students to compete in materials design tasks. The competition projects are proposed from various companies (NASA, Boeing, GM, and many others) for students to participate and complete in a team at their university, led by a mentor. Here is a link to the CASMART webpage: http://www.casmart.org/
Fall 2018 to Spring 2019: This competition was completed during the 2018-2019 academic year and the presentation took place in Germany. The projects proposed and more information can be found here: http://www.casmart.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/CASMART-3rd-Design-Challenge-Guidlines.pdf
I was a mentor for 8 students for 2 different project teams that were from the Texas A&M Materials Science and Engineering Department. There were 4 students per team, all were sophomore students from various backgrounds (MSEN, ISEN, MEEN, CSCE, AERO). The teams both flew to Germany and presented at the SMST Conference, placing 2nd and 5th. Being a mentor for two different projects with 8 students completely new to shape memory alloy research taught me how to be patient and trusting. There is not enough time to teach each individual student what they need to know to be successful, so getting each student excited and motivated for the project (even though they were unpaid) proved to be the best course of action. I still talk to all of these students and consider myself a mentor to them for their classes and research.
AggiE_Challenge: AggiE_Challenge is designed to engage engineering undergraduate students with multidisciplinary team research projects related to engineering challenges facing our society. Most AggiE_Challenge teams consist of ten or more students representing three or more engineering majors while there are also smaller teams consisting of five or more students representing at least two majors. The program is open to students from freshman to senior level. More information can be found here: https://engineering.tamu.edu/academics/undergraduate/aggie-challenge/index.html
Fall 2019 to Spring 2020: This challenge spanned the 2019-2020 school year and was my first time mentoring for the AggiE_Challenge. I worked with 6 different students (3 from MSEN and 3 from AERO) to design shape memory shims for aerospace applications. The project is sponsored by Boeing and the students report directly to faculty from MSEN, AERO, and Boeing for updates. The students will also be presenting at the engineering showcase (virtually) on the work they have completed. I believe the biggest thing I learned as a mentor this semester was to know when students are ready to fly solo. Most of these students are juniors and seniors and required much less guidance, and I noticed a significant improvement in the quality of research when I allowed them to come to me with new results rather than I set deadlines for them.
The Tethered Informatics and Data Analytics Lab (tidal): The site hosting my eportfolio is also dedicated to tidal, an effort to create better scientists by merging, or tethering, the love of science and engineering with data science. I, along with some of my previous students Sharon Pearlnath, Ben Rudzinski, and John Broucek, created the initiative and a club at Texas A&M; tidaltamu. We are a new organization, just starting recruitment in February. We teach our students about data science and artificial intelligence, and if the student shows promise, we place them on research projects given to us from faculty members and researchers at Texas A&M. Currently, we have 120+ students involved, 40 of which are working on research projects utilizing artificial intelligence and data science for various research projects from different departments. By the end of 2020, we have a goal of 20 departments and 20 companies and research laboratories involved in tidaltamu with over 100 active research projects and 500+ students.