Research Experiences for Engineering Students

This January, U.S. News and World Report ranked Youngstown State University’s undergraduate engineering program in the top 25 percent in the world — among schools that do not offer a doctoral degree.

Unlike large schools that primarily provide research opportunities to graduate students, YSU’s undergrads play an active role in YSU’s research labs.

“I saw the big universities put an emphasis on the graduate school and the research more than the teaching. Very rarely, I saw undergraduates in the research labs there. … Here at YSU, that’s not the case,” said Virgil Solomon, assistant engineering professor.

Hazel Marie, chair of the mechanical and industrial engineering programs, agreed with Solomon and said undergraduate research opportunities contribute to YSU’s educational value.

“We have to bring our undergrads into the knowledge of our research, because we don’t have Ph.D. students. So, we become better teachers to pass that on to undergrad students, and they learn more because they are exposed to things that they wouldn’t be exposed to at Texas A&M [University],” Marie said.

The engineering program has closely worked with local companies and successfully acquired research grants to provide a hands-on education to its students.

Solomon currently uses electron microscopes to conduct research on advanced materials, looking for defects in their chemical and mechanical makeup. He said he encourages his undergraduate students to participate in this research.

“We have very good research facilities here,” he said. “Whenever I conduct a research project, I am recruiting undergraduate students.”

Geordan Cover, an undergraduate chemical engineering student, contributes to a research project, testing an alloy wire’s resistance to force and heat. He expressed satisfaction with his YSU education.

“I can easily see why YSU has been ranked among the world’s best engineering programs,” Cover said. “The small class sizes along with a huge amount of hands on time with professors would be the biggest reason. … Besides simply taking the time to meet with any student, [professors] help in giving opportunities with research, allowing hands on work with a multitude of lab equipment and finally applying everything we have learned to real world problems.”

Cover said his laboratory experience will be beneficial as he continues to consider a career research.

“Being an engineer, you have the option of two different paths to go down. You can go into manufacturing or you can go into research,” he said. “My short time doing research has given me a good view at what a chemical engineer would do at a research and development position at a company. Research involves a lot of thinking outside the box and hands on problem solving, two things that have helped immensely when it comes to course work.”

Solomon concluded that he expects the engineering program to continue its tradition of excellence and said he was not surprised to see YSU rank among the world’s best undergraduate schools for engineering.

“I know that we have a very good engineering program here at YSU. We have a tradition in engineering, we have good feedback from our alumni regarding their education here at YSU … and we can compete against any other engineering school in the United States,” Solomon said. “[Students] just have to say, ‘hey, I want to learn,’ and they have that opportunity here.”

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