SURF Summer Fellowship Offers Undergraduates Interdisciplinary Research Experience
The Lyles School of Civil Engineering’s commitment to educate and prepare its undergraduates to make their next giant leap extends far beyond what is taught in the classroom.
The College of Engineering’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program provides an action-oriented research experience for undergraduate students to stimulate their interest in advanced education and research careers. Civil engineering staff and faculty have participated since the program’s inception.
SURF matches selected undergraduates with a faculty member and graduate student mentor who introduce them to the research tools used on the cutting edges of science, engineering and technology. This competitive fellowship is a paid, 10-week, immersive summer research program guided by the faculty and graduate student mentors.
Undergraduate Wahab William Akanbi joined Assistant Professor Sogand Hasanzadeh’s research team to work on an interdisciplinary research project about construction safety and wearable technologies.
“It is a fantastic program and I was excited to be a part of it,” Hasanzadeh said. “Besides learning more about engineering, students also gain vital experience and a greater understanding of what it’s like to be on a team and see what they learned in class is used every day in the research field.”
In addition to research activities, students also participate in weekly professional development workshops. The program culminates with a student research symposium where all fellows present a technical poster or an oral talk.
Undergraduate Hannah Tomkins assists Ayman Habib, the Thomas A. Page Professor of Civil Engineering, survey Lake Michigan.
Undergraduate Hannah Tomkins joined Associate Professor Cary Troy’s research team over the summer studying coastal erosion at Lake Michigan. Tomkins said the experience was eye-opening.
“I never realized how interdisciplinary research often becomes,” she said. “Especially in civil engineering where it’s so wide-reaching, you learn so much working with students and professors in other engineering disciplines.”
Environmental and ecological engineering undergraduate Ben Nelson-Mercer was another member of the interdisciplinary research team.
“Prior to participating in SURF, I wasn’t certain I was interested in pursuing research,” Nelson-Mercer said. “The summer program was perfect for me to learn more through research and I discovered it was something I truly enjoyed being a part of.”
For both Tomkins and Nelson-Mercer, their experiences led to earning ongoing research positions on Troy’s team.
“The SURF program has always been a great place to find new research assistants for more than just over the summer,” Troy said. “This program does an incredible job finding the best, most motivated students — and it’s so well-structured in how it prepares them.”