Undergraduate summer engineering research is about developing a personal relationship with a distinguished faculty member, struggling a little before having questions answered for you and most of all constantly adapting to make do with what you have. In that, the preparation reflects the profession.
Which is exactly what the Barrett Foundation intended when the family nonprofit, led by 1966 UVM graduate Richard Barrett, a successful entrepreneur whose career was boosted by early internship experiences, decided to provide summer research scholarships for four top students in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences (CEMS). Tracy Owen, Jennifer Gagnon, Alaina Dickason and Brendan Kennedy were the summer 2005 Barrett Scholars.
Senior Tracy Owen spent her summer focused on furthering her study of stream dynamics by recreating aspects of one particular waterway in the Votey Hall's six-meter flume. Owen spent weeks scaling the survey data from forested and unforested stretches of the actual stream so that she could build the scale model that would allow her to conduct experiments and take measurements on how the surrounding land affects the water's turbulence and velocity and how that, in turn, affects the width of the stream. Such information is essential to have, she notes, on a forest or stream restoration project.
All of the Barrett Scholars hope to see their work through to publication, but Owen notes that the challenges they've overcome getting there may be the greatest reward of the summer's work. "You run into problems," she says, "and you have to think of a solution quickly in that engineering spirit of solving issues with the materials you have."
Text adapted from Tom Weaver's article in The Vermont Quarterly, Fall 2005.
Pictured above (from left to right):
Accurately Quantifying Soil Properties Using Real Time Video Image Processing
Assessing Linkages Between Stream Geomorphic Condition and In-stream Habitat
Predicting Key Crop Disease Forecasting Parameters Using Artificial Neural Networks and Digital Photography and Imaging Analysis
A Flume Experiment to Examine the Effects of Shear Layer Turbulence on Stream Widening