By Mary Jantsch
Class of 2013
SPOKANE, Wash. – Gonzaga University seniors Samantha Engel and Taylor Brown are taking part this summer in 11-week undergraduate research fellowships they earned with the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md. The fellowships, which started May 23 and run through Aug. 9, also include a significant paid stipend.
The fellowships provide opportunities for undergraduates to do hands-on research with internationally known NIST scientists and learn about the latest research in their disciplines. Co-sponsored by NIST and the National Science Foundation, the fellowships are designed to attract and train future generations of scientists and engineers.
Gonzaga is honored to have two students participating in the prestigious program, which is limited to 176 fellows working elbow-to-elbow with researchers at NIST, home to three winners of the Nobel Prize.
Engel, a civil engineering student, is conducting research in the Engineering Laboratory program after being nominated by civil engineering faculty Mara London and Alex Maxwell. Only 25 students nationwide were chosen for this program. Engel is working in the Energy and Environment Division, which develops measurement science, predictive models and performance metrics to improve the energy and efficiency of building components and systems. Her research seeks to help reduce building-related emissions of carbon dioxide, enhancing the quality of the indoor environment and improving building design.
“Growing up in the small town of Hailey, Idaho, much was left to my imagination when I pictured my life twenty years in the future,” Engel said. “What I could do, where I could go, and what lifestyle I would lead were limited to what I saw and experienced in the small world around me. As the first in my family to attend college, I would have never imagined that I would study engineering, a thought that seemed so foreign to me so many years ago.”
As the summer research program unfolds, Engel expressed amazement with the talented youth she has met.
“There is so much potential for an amazing, new world with all the young innovative minds embracing opportunities like this,” Engel said.
Brown, a biochemistry student from Bend, Ore., is conducting research in the Material Measurement Laboratory for the summer after being nominated by chemistry professors Matthew Cremeens and Eric Ross. Only 16 students nationwide were selected for this research opportunity. Taylor is working with research scientist Rebecca Zangmeister, whose expertise involves the control and improvement of molecular adhesion for varied applications.
Like fellow Zag Engel, Brown too is wowed by the talented youth in the program.
“By far, the greatest aspect of this program has been the breadth of talented students I’ve met,” Brown said in a phone call Monday. “The program is fairly large with over 150 students majoring in areas from physics to biochemistry and also nearly every type of engineering field. I can visit the (Smithsonian) National Air and Space Museum, which is in the area, with a couple of new friends and the passion these students have for engineering becomes apparent as they detail every aspect of why each displayed plane or engine represents a huge leap in technology from the previous era.”
Also, the physics students he has met can explain newly emerging Swiss data and its relevance pointing to the existence of the Higgs Boson, or “God-Particle” long-sought by scientists.
“In short, this type of environment created by this program lends itself well to a sharing of scientific passions among students,” said Brown, who looks forward to some Northwest wilderness time when the program ends – before he returns to Gonzaga in late August for fall semester classes. He plans to take advantage of every free moment.
“I’m going back to Bend and plan on spending as much time as possible in the wilderness,” Brown said. “There really is no place like the beautiful Pacific Northwest.”
NIST is among the nation’s top research institutions for the physical and engineering sciences. As the lead federal agency for technology transfer, it provides a strong interface between government, industry and academia. NIST embodies a special science culture, developed from a large and well-equipped research staff that enthusiastically blends programs to address the immediate needs of industry with longer-term basic and applied research.