2022 2022: New program prepares students for advanced materials workforce
New program prepares students for advanced materials workforce

As part of a 10-week summer program funded by the National Science Foundation, a cohort of community college students will conduct cutting-edge research relevant to the region’s marine economy and other industries.

Audra Palmer, organic chemistry major
Audra Palmer, an organic chemistry major, is one of 10 participants selected for the summer program at UMass Dartmouth's College of Engineering designed to prepare students for the workforce. (Photographer: Adrienne N. Wartts)

Dr. Vijaya Chalivendra, professor of Mechanical Engineering at UMass Dartmouth's College of Engineering, has received a $430,631 award from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Materials Research for his “REU site: Advanced Interdisciplinary Materials Research for Maritime Applications” project. The goal of the project is to provide intensive research experience in advanced materials to community college students of diverse backgrounds and underrepresented communities.

Last month, a summer cohort of 10 community college students began conducting cutting-edge research on advanced marine materials relevant to the region’s marine economy. The 10-week program runs through August 12, 2022. Faculty mentors from engineering, chemistry, and biochemistry disciplines collectively offer scientifically stimulating and challenging projects designed to encourage and prepare students for the research. Students are also involved in various additional activities, including, professional growth sessions, professional advising to help prepare for STEM-based careers, visits to local companies addressing commercial materials challenges in marine technology, and a concluding symposium.

“This summer program provides a rich experience for students to conduct intensive research and prepares them to pursue graduate studies and join the workforce in advanced materials,” says Chalivendra. Students engage in an intensive research experience where they work on independent research projects on advanced materials. Through these projects, students are introduced to various research equipment, data analysis tools, and presentations of results in weekly review meetings.  Additionally, participants gain exposure to the practical use of advanced materials in applications through visits to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI), Morgan Advanced Materials, and AMETEK in New Bedford. The students will also participate in several workshops, including safety training, research ethics, design of experiments, library databases, and research communication skills.

At the end of this program, students can opt for a four-year degree at UMass Dartmouth or apply to other universities of their choice and continue research through graduate studies in their respective disciplines. “The program also provides ample opportunities for faculty to mentor students of diverse backgrounds and underrepresented groups and develop equity in their research programs,” says Chalivendra. “We aim to prepare students for workforce development in the marine economy and other industries.”

In addition to this advanced educational opportunity for community college students, there are other benefits. For example, each student receives a $600 per week stipend, a weekly $100 meal allowance, free on-campus accommodations, $1,000 for purchasing research supplies for their project, and an $800 travel allowance for attending a conference to present the outcomes of their research beyond the 10-week program.

The student participants are:

  • Toluwani Adebayo, Community College of Rhode Island
  • Sara Amin, Clovis Community College, CA
  • Elizabeth Dennen, Community College of Rhode Island
  • Theresa Dunigan, Community College of Rhode Island
  • Ayoub Ellouzi, Bunker Hill Community College, MA
  • Aries Erickson, Snow College, UT
  • David Kamp, Cape Cod Community College, MA
  • Audra Palmer, Lorain County Community College, OH
  • Ethan Ramirez, Ventura College, CA
  • Maghen Saltzman, Bakersfield College, CA

Learn more about the REU site program and students' research projects.