CEE students shine in interdisciplinary research program

12/14/2022 8:59:12 AM

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign undergraduate students Desi Nainar, Tara Reddy, Shiraz Baxamusa and Hayley Kieu, from left, pose in front of their first-place poster at the PURE Research Symposium on December 2.
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign undergraduate students Desi Nainar, Tara Reddy, Shiraz Baxamusa and Hayley Kieu, from left, pose in front of their first-place poster at the PURE Research Symposium on December 2.

A team comprised of CEE at Illinois undergraduate students Tara Reddy, Shiraz Baxamusa and Hayley Kieu, along with Computer Science student Desi Nainar, received the best presentation award at the PURE Research Symposium on December 2, 2023. Their project investigated the measurement of aggregate breakage in asphalt concrete. The team was mentored by CEE graduate student Javier García Mainieri.

The semester-long interdisciplinary program aims to enhance college student’s interest in engineering research by pairing freshman and sophomore undergraduates with graduate research mentors.  The undergraduates met weekly with their mentors to work on a research project and presented their findings at the end-of-semester symposium. Mentors’ area of expertise spanned civil and environmental engineering, food science and human nutrition, aerospace engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and bioengineering, among others.

For García Mainieri, sharing his knowledge and interests with his mentees was a rewarding experience.

“My favorite part in serving as a mentor was empowering my mentees to take on responsibilities and to see them produce reliable results,” García Mainieri said.

UIUC students Colin Macleod (left) and Rohit Choudhary (right) smile in front of their research poster with mentor Akash Bajaj, a Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering doctoral candidate.
UIUC students Colin Macleod (left) and Rohit Choudhary (right) smile in front of their research poster with mentor Akash Bajaj, a Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering doctoral candidate.

Fellow CEE graduate student Akash Bajaj also served as one of the PURE program’s mentors. Bajaj mentored UIUC students Colin Macleod (Materials Science and Engineering) and Rohit Choudhary (Mechanical Science and Engineering). Their project focused on understanding cracking mechanisms in asphalt pavements.

His favorite part of mentoring students?

“Getting to guide undergraduates into the field of research and letting them see the value one can generate while being involved in different research projects,” Bajaj said.

Applications for the Spring 2023 program will open at the beginning of 2023.