Engineering Students Present Work at Undergraduate Research Day


Toby Weber
Undergraduate Research Day
Engineering undergraduate Kerry Schuette (center), who won an audience award for his reserach conducted under Professor Peter Vekilov, listens to a fellow undergraduate researcher explain his work.

More than 100 University of Houston undergraduate students, including more than a dozen from the Cullen College of Engineering, presented their work last week during UH’s annual Undergraduate Research Day.

Each year, hundreds of undergraduates at UH conduct substantive research in their chosen field, typically under the guidance of a university faculty member. The event, hosted by the Honors College and the Office of Undergraduate Research, offers these students a chance to showcase their efforts and their findings.

Among this year’s presenters was Kerry Schuette, a student in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, whose poster presentation won an Audience Choice Award at the event.

Working in Professor Peter Vekilov’s research group, Schuette investigated sickle cell anemia, an often-fatal disease in which hemoglobin polymerizes, or aggregates in a specific shape, causing red blood cells to become rigid. In order to develop new, effective sickle cell treatments, researchers must understand the process behind hemoglobin polymerization. Schuette helped to develop a tool that can quickly change the temperature of a hemoglobin solution undergoing the polymerization process, allowing researchers to study it more closely.

Also presenting was electrical and computer engineering student Cesar Figueroa, who conducted research this summer under the guidance of assistant professor Wei-Chuan Shih. Figueroa helped develop nanofabrication techniques for the creation of neural probes. By adding a layer of nanoporous gold to the surface of the probe’s electrodes, the device's ability to record electrical activity in the brain is enhanced.

Both Schuette and Figueroa, as well as several other presenters with the Cullen College, conducted their research during the summer through the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). SURF’s companion program, the Provosts’ Undergraduate Research Scholarship, provides students with funding to conduct research during the fall and spring semesters. The application deadline for the spring 2013 PURS program is Friday, November 16.


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