Exposing Undergraduate Students to Research Experience

Lehigh University’s Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems (ATLSS) Engineering Research Center supported undergraduate engineering students through a PITA award for its Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program in Summer of 2017. The program provided students with the opportunity to conduct engineering research on active projects in the ATLSS Engineering Research Center.

Some research focus areas in the REU program included: modeling power distribution structures in the Lehigh Valley; investigating the manufacturability of orthotropic steel bridges; developing a mobile sensing system for bridge monitoring; and studying the long-term behavior of geothermal deep foundation systems.

“PITA provided me with exposure to the world of research through my participation in the ATLSS REU program, including the opportunity to conduct research on the performance of geothermal deep foundation systems to which I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to learn about,” says Ryan Bonshak, a mechanical engineering major at Lehigh University. “This research provided me with first-hand experience as to how to approach a research problem and methodically work through the problem to discover behaviors and characteristics that previously were not known.”

The REU program also included several professional development seminars provided by Lehigh University’s Career and Professional Development Department. These seminars included topics on resume development, searching effectively for a job or internship, and interviewing tips for future job searches.

The program toured various Pennsylvania companies, such as High Steel Structures, Lehigh Heavy Forge, and Intertek. These tours connected the students with companies and highlighted operations associated with the students’ areas of interest.

“The ATLSS REU program, through this research, its professional development workshops, and through industry tours, provided a unique complement to my academic studies and equipped me with a professional skillset to prepare me for my future professional endeavors,” says Bonshak.

Funding for the research was provided through agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the United States Department of Transportation.