The Illinois Tech Chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Eta Kappa Nu (IEEE-HKN) hosted a panel of student researchers on the night of Monday, March 19 in Perlstein Hall 108. Lasting from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., this student panel consisted of current students Omar Sherif Tawkaol (biomedical engineering), Liza McQueney (mechanical engineering), Phil Hossu (computer science and mathematics), and Mete Morris (computer engineering).
Before the panel was opened up to questions from the audience, each of the student researchers presented on their research background and experiences. Tawakol began with a presentation on his role in a intercortical visual prosthesis project, based on the creation and testing of an electronic chip that can electrically stimulate the human brain’s visual cortex and lead to perception of light in blind patients. The next presenter, McQueney, discussed her work with The Robotics [email protected] as one of the lab’s undergraduate assistants. McQueney’s work specifically involved dust mitigation through either electrostatic repulsion or a piezoelectric device. Hossu took the opportunity to discuss his work both with professors and on his own with polynomial system solving. Finally, Morris described his research experience with policy-driven health management systems.
At this point in the event, the panel then opened to questions from the audience. The first question asked how an Illinois Tech student can go about getting involved with research both on and off campus. This question was met with the response that many of the panelists got their start through having a solid rapport with their academic professors and this leading to interactions, networks, and eventually opportunities. The work that a student does in class, even if not necessarily relevant, can still oftentimes leave a lasting impression with a professor and lead to professional opportunities down the line.
The next few questions asked the panel about the relationship between classroom learning and the experiences gained from their research. The panelists stated that this very much depends on the nature of the research project, but typically, the material learned in class plays a vital role in laying the foundation for research work. While the dichotomy between applied and theoretical knowledge becomes very pronounced at this stage, the point remains that student research and academics supplement each other very well in rounding out one’s education. A similar question comparing research to more traditional work or internship arrangements was met with the response that it depends on the student’s value of autonomy, with research generally lending itself to much more autonomy than a job or internship.
Finally, the panelists discussed what they liked, disliked, and took away from their research experiences. Included in the liked aspects were the opportunities to learn and network, access to resources and labs, and overall professional development. The panelists also expressed their dislike for the difficulty of work being seen as legitimate when not done in traditional professor arrangements, administrative and logistical difficulties, and the intimidation factor at the beginning of a research project when no one knows your capabilities or personality. To conclude, the panel stated that the most fundamental aspects of student research include being passionate about the subject matter, having a strong work ethic and personal convictions, and being able to network well.