Engineering Students Present Research at Symposium
April 16, 2012
Esmeralda Fisher

Cullen College of Engineering undergraduates showcased their semester-long research in poster presentations at the inaugural UH Spring Undergraduate Research Symposium on April 12, held at the university’s Rockwell Pavilion. Students represented mentored work in biomedical, chemical, civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering programs.

Civil engineering major Nicholas Leschke worked with assistant professor Craig Glennie to characterize the error in terrestrial laser scanning targets.

"Laser scanners are used in many applications, including producing point clouds of an area or object of interest," said Leschke. For example, surveying the university campus would necessitate a laser scanner to be set numerous times to capture all buildings, producing several individual point clouds that would then need to be combined into one. This is accomplished by positioning retro-reflective targets during the initial scans, so that multiple targets appear in each scan. Those targets are then used to tie the individual point clouds using one of them as the base. In so doing, there is always some error involved, and Leschke worked on characterizing that error to see if it varies consistently with distance.

Electrical engineering senior Cesar Figueroa conducted his research project under the mentorship of assistant professor Wei-Chuan Shih, whose group seeks to develop a novel implantable microelectromechanical (MEMS) neural probe to deliver optical pulses for deep brain neural stimulation and record neuronal action potential. Figueroa’s goal was to design and develop a user-friendly software application which implements a circuit model that describes the interface between the microelectrode and the electrolyte (brain tissue), and the interconnect of the neural probe.

"This project was of special interest to me because it allowed me to strengthen and reinforce skills such as circuit modeling, programming and signal filtering which I previously learned in engineering classes," said Figueroa, whose research was also presented at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) in Ogden, Utah. Figueroa was one of nine UH students selected by the Office of Undergraduate Research to present at this conference.

The purpose of the research that mechanical engineering major John Alred conducted was to explore materials at a molecular level, specifically the properties of graphene. Under the guide of M.D. Anderson Chair Professor of Mechanical Engineering and department chair Pradeep Sharma, Alred was tasked with theoretically analyzing the possibility of introducing a magnetostrictive property into graphene.

Chemical engineering major Adeline Mah worked with assistant professors Gila Stein and Navin Varadarajan to develop a simple and cost-effective portable biosensor platform for early detection and treatment of diseases, as an alternative to the costly in vitro diagnostic tests that require a laboratory.

Floredes Menodiado, mentored by associate professor Kirill Larin, worked in the Biomedical Optics Laboratory towards developing a novel method for completely noninvasive assessment of tissue biomechanical properties using optical coherence tomography elastography technique.

Electrical engineering major Curtis Belknap’s project concerned simplifying a device that is designed to heat substances using high power radio frequency. Guided by associate professor Len Trombetta, Belknap aimed to enhance the device’s operation through software and automation improvements. "It was a very interesting project to work on," Belknap said. "It allowed me to apply my engineering education to a multi-dimensional problem in a way not normally available to students."

The Undergraduate Research Symposium is sponsored by the UH Office of Undergraduate Research. Participating students were involved with the Provost's Undergraduate Research Scholarship Program, senior honors theses and other mentored research programs during the spring semester.

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