Summer is traditionally a time when many undergraduate students gain professional experience through internships and co-operative employment opportunities.
Because of the COVID-19 crisis, some Nebraska Engineering students lost these valuable experiences.
To fill that void, the College of Engineering created the Summer Nebraska Engineering Research Program (SNERP) to match students with faculty offering research opportunities and other engineering-focused work.
On June 1, up to 26 engineering students began a 10-week program, doing remote research. The projects will connect 19 with faculty from five College of Engineering departments.
As many as seven students will work with Hunter Flodman, assistant professor of practice in chemical and biomolecular engineering, to support the hand sanitizer production project at the Food Processing Center (FPC) at Nebraska Innovation Campus. Those students will also aid the FPC in existing projects with an engineering component.
"Given this unusual situation with COVID-19, we felt that something needed to be done to provide a significant alternative for students who were missing out on valuable opportunities," said Daniel Linzell, associate dean for graduate and international programs. "The faculty who are participating in this program are certainly some of our most successful research faculty and we are confident they will provide an excellent experience for the students."
In 2019, the college initiated a summer program that brought five engineering undergraduate students from Ecuador to Lincoln for 10 weeks of faculty-directed research. When that program was canceled for 2020 because of the COVID-19 crisis, resources were redirected to create the SNERP program.
"There was money to dedicate to SNERP and we also leveraged our graduate programs and departments to invest more in the needs of our students," said Linzell, who as a professor of civil and environmental engineering is also directing one of the research projects.
Dean Lance C. Pérez approved the new program and college administrators and Engineering Student Services staff quickly began working to identify Nebraska Engineering students and faculty to advise and direct research projects. In total, 59 students applied for the program and faculty committed to at least 18 research projects.
In addition to giving the students some professional development in this time of crisis, Linzell said the college also wants SNERP to also expose those undergraduates to life in graduate school.
"Certainly, we want students to think long and hard about the benefits of a graduate education, and hopefully this will interest them in pursuing an advanced degree," Linzell said. "While I'm not completely sure if the program will continue, for this extraordinary summer it was something Dean Pérez and all of us agreed was an exciting and necessary way to support our students."
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