Imagine participating in cutting-edge research in flight simulation. Monitoring tests at the National Advanced Driving Simulator to reduce the loss of lives on our nation’s highways. Developing models that improve detection of breast cancer tumors.
These scenarios are reality for students at the University of Iowa College of Engineering, where undergraduates collaborate with esteemed faculty in research areas such as fluid mechanics, photopolymerization, bioinformatics, robotics, and human factors.
“I did lab research in iron oxides the summer before my first semester,” says T.J. Middlemis-Brown, a civil engineering major from West Branch, Iowa. “I was talking to a professor about finding work and she said, ‘I’d love to have some help in my lab.’”
P. Barry Butler, dean of the college, places a high priority on that sort of opportunity for undergraduate students.
“We strongly encourage students and faculty to be active in faculty-mentored undergraduate research. It provides a learning experience that is truly unique to research-intensive universities like The University of Iowa,” he says. “In addition, it supports our strategic plan goal: to create a collegiate experience that encourages intellectual rigor and productive teamwork, and results in the graduation of engineers who are well prepared to succeed in the global workplace.”
Engineering faculty are accessible—each advises an average of 14 undergrads and 5 graduate students. Each professor also generates about $346,000 annually in collegiate and interdisciplinary research grants and contracts. The research opportunities they afford UI students provide lessons that augment classroom teaching.
“Research involves problem solving and cultivates critical thinking,” says Er-Wei Bai, professor of electrical and computer engineering. “Sometimes the students fail, but failure is often the first step to discovery. At Iowa, we try to go beyond presenting the material and to engage the students in the learning process.”