REU Summer A Success

By Sydney Souder

reu caption 1For the third consecutive summer, UConn’s Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering (CBE) Department hosed an NSF sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) summer program.

“The unique aspect of our REU,” said Dr. Jeff McCutcheon, principal investigator for the NSF grant supporting the program, “is that we connected student participants with faculty mentors and company sponsors for a true entrepreneurial or business oriented research experience.”

Lasting ten weeks this past summer, participating students were advised by both faculty and industrial partners, providing them with a unique experience at the interface of academic research and commercialization.

Projects varied across the spectrum of chemical engineering and materials science. This summer produced the following projects: Ceramic Nanofilm Depostion for Vapor Detection Devices (Proton OnSite), Implantable, Wireless Biosensors for Diabetes Care (Biorais), Graphene Polymer Nanocomposites (Cabot Corporation), Water Based Anodes for Lithium Ion Batteries (BYK Additives & reu caption 3Instruments), High-Performance Nanostructured Organic/Inorganic Hybrids for Functional Applications (Nanocor), Development of Scalable Droplet Microfluidic Devices (BASF), Increasing Soil Water Retention with Bacteria (DuPont), Characterization of TiO2 Thin Films on 316L Stainless Steel Formed using a Sol-Gel Technique (VeruTEK Technologies), Plasmonic Nanodevices for Solar Energy Harvesting (Scitech Solar), and Sustainable Biofuels Production (RPM Sustainable Technologies).

reu caption 2Students spent their summer in a world-class academic research laboratory with state-of-the art instrumentation. They also toured local incubator spaces, and participated in an Innovation Accelerator event at a local private incubator.

Laboratory time was balanced with workshops to improve students’ writing and presenting skills. One unique aspect of the program was the short business seminar during which students experienced a flavor of the business side of innovation.

This preparation came in handy for the “Innovation Connection” networking event at summer’s end. Participants pitched their work to the region’s business community during their poster session, and networked with over one hundred people in the field.

The REU experience did much more than the name may imply. This summer’s group of students also held their own barbeques, organized outings to UConn’s Avery Point campus, Mystic, and even attended a New Britain Rock Cats baseball game. These recreational events enriched the already memorable program to an unforgettable summer experience.