Student Spotlight: University of Delaware Undergraduate Students Spend Summer 2015 Studying Transportation Environmental Sustainability

As a professor of civil and environmental engineering, the director of the Delaware Center for Transportation, and an associate director of the MATS UTC program, Ardeshir Faghri, Ph.D, appreciates the importance of increasing the number of transportation professionals who can tackle complex transportation sustainability problems. So he was eager to mentor, through the MATS UTC summer research program, two University of Delaware (UDEL) undergraduate engineering students. Now halfway through the program, Angelo Glover and Shally Hernandez are fully engaged in a number of interrelated projects.

First, they are studying the reports and information produced by four University of Delaware environmental-related research centers: the Delaware Environmental Institute whose primary mission is to conduct research and coordinate partnerships that integrate environmental science, engineering and policy in order to provide solutions and strategies that address environmental challenges; the Center for Fuel Cell Research that promotes basic and applied research to improve fundamental understanding of fuel cells as well as to address critical issues and barriers to commercialization; the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy which is a leading institution for interdisciplinary education, research and advocacy in energy and environmental policy; and the Vehicle to Grid Program that has developed a set of interacting technologies, policies and market strategies to use the flow of power in and out of electric drive vehicles to electric grids while meeting driving requirements of vehicle owners. The students are also studying the projects and information contained within the Dubai-based MASDAR Institute of Science & Technology, a graduate level, research-oriented university focused on alternative energy and sustainability. Furthermore, they are learning about the six MATS-UTC projects that are currently being conducted by University of Delaware researchers.

Secondly, they are actively participating in traffic flow data collection using advanced Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technology and presenting the data in a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) format. This data will ultimately be used by the Delaware Department of Transportation for the State of Delaware Traffic Congestion Management Program. Both students will actively participate in the August 6 -7 MATS-UTC annual meeting that has been scheduled to take place in Wilmington, Delaware.

Glover is a third year electrical engineering student. He intends to pursue a career in the automotive industry, working in the field of automotive design. “Understanding traffic movement and doing actual field work is giving me the opportunity to see the transportation industry from a whole new perspective,” says Glover. “This research experience is really important. I’ll be a better automotive engineer if I can apply practical knowledge about traffic flow to vehicle design, especially considering things like visibility, speed and braking.”

Hernandez agrees that the summer research program opens doors to new opportunities. As a second year chemical engineering student, Hernandez was interested in a career in petroleum engineering. However, the summer research program has exposed her to a wide array of interesting challenges in other engineering disciplines, particularly related to the sustainability of transportation systems. “For example, it’s really important to be able to assess internal damage that might be occurring on a concrete bridge before any visual damage can even been seen. Transportation engineers are exploring new ways to do these kinds of structural assessments before there is any negative environmental impact,” she says.

Both students are actively involved in extra-curricular activities that support their career aspirations and round out their college experiences. Glover is the telecommunications chair for the National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE) and is a diversity enrichment leader for the UDEL Office of Admissions. He is an American Global Fellow, assisting international students to acclimate to college life in the United States. In 2014, he was the reception speaker for the Nucleus Program, providing advice to high school students on transitioning to college.

Similarly, Hernandez is a member of UDEL’s Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and Resources to Insure Successful Engineers (RISE). She was previously a research assistant with David Martin, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Materials Science and Engineering, with whom she studied the electrochemical deposition of poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT), particularly the cracking spaces of PEDOT-coated films. She is also a physics and organic chemistry tutor.

Glover and Hernandez concur that the MATS UTC summer research program has been a terrific way to spend the summer. “It’s exciting to see the creativity that engineers bring to solving transportation problems. The opportunity to be a part of the summer research program has allowed me to work on a project that has real potential to have environmental impact and I’m using parts of my education that I never thought I’d use,” explains Hernandez.

“Opportunities to work on real industry projects can be hard to find for undergrads. The summer research program is a great stepping stone to an industry career,” Glover concludes.

Glover may be contacted at aglover@udel.edu. Hernandez may be reached at hernands@udel.edu. Their faculty advisor, Dr. Faghri, may be contacted at faghri@udel.edu.