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Undergraduate Student Spotlights

Undergraduate Fellows Spend Summer in Ireland

Undergraduates in STEM disciplines are spending summer 2014 in Ireland as Naughton and Clark Undergraduate Fellows program conducting research. Shown here are (left to right) Laura Shute, Rebecca Shute, Sean Howard, Jack Olding, and Kathleen Krah.  Shutes, Howard, and Olding are Naughton Fellows, and they will spend 10 weeks at one of four participating Irish universities: Dublin City University, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, or University College Cork. Krah, a Clark Fellow, is spending her summer in Ireland, working at a local university on a cutting-edge STEM based project.

Each student is part of the host university’s research community, which offers the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities. At the conclusion of the summer, each student is required to prepare a summary of his/her project accomplishments and give a presentation on the research.

Engineering a Future for Cancer Research

Accurate mammography is crucial for early detection of breast cancer, which can greatly increase survival rates. Lisa Cole, a bioengineering Ph.D. candidate, has developed an x-ray contrast agent that can detect microcalcifications more accurately. Working alongside Ryan Roeder, associate professor in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Cole has previously experimented this new technology using in vitro and mouse models.

What’s the next step for Cole’s project? The x-ray contrast agent needs to be tested using a model that mimics actual human tissue.

That’s where undergraduate Tony Stedge, a junior mechanical engineering student, comes in. Stedge is working in Professor Roeder’s lab to create an anatomically correct model for Cole's project, research which is funded by the Harper Cancer Research Institute Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (HCRI-SURF). 

“[Cole] did a lot of modeling with gels and matrices. She then went to mouse models; the next step before human clinical trials is experimenting on anatomically correct models,” Stedge said.

He is working on creating a model that is both relatively inexpensive and realistic for modeling human characteristics. Researchers use phantoms, which are substitutes of actual human tissue. Stedge’s project is to create a phantom currently unavailable on the market.

“Commercial phantoms only account for adipose tissue. We want to model both the adipose and the fibroglandular parts of the tissue,” Stedge said.

How does he do this exactly?

“I work with a x-ray micro-CT, which allows us to see what materials accurately mimic tissue. I’ve worked with polyvinyl alcohol mixtures with ethanol or just agarose gels and water to test and see if they mimic human tissue,” Stedge said.
Because models that mimic adipose tissue already exist on the market, Stedge is focused on finding a material sufficient to model the fibroglandular part of the tissue.

“We have a lot of things that would pretty closely mimic the fatty part of the tissue, so that is where my research comes in: trying to find that fibroglandular tissue,” Stedge said.

Stedge is one of many examples of how an engineering background can contribute to the fight against cancer.

“That’s what interested me. Of course, every kid grows up wanting to cure cancer. To say that I’m working toward that end goal of cancer, at least in some form is pretty cool. I never thought I’d get that opportunity,” Stedge said.

Story provided by the Harper Cancer Institute.

2014 Steiner Honorees

An 1899 civil engineering graduate of Notre Dame, Father Thomas Steiner, C.S.C., was dean of the College of Engineering from 1928 to 1938. He made a great impact on the course of the College of Engineering, but he made an even greater impact on the lives of his students. In 1948 former students of “Pops” Steiner established the Reverend Thomas A. Steiner Prize in his memory. Since that time seniors in each disciplined are recognized for their all-around excellence, their commitment to engineering, and to the common good.

This year’s recipients are shown, from left to right, with Peter Kilpatrick, the McCloskey Dean of Engineering. They are: Kevin DiPasquale, chemical and biomolecular engineering; Daniel Rish, civil and environmental engineering and earth sciences; Julia Concelman, mechanical engineering; Taryn Green, computer science and engineering; Jane McGuinness, electrical engineering; and Patrick McFarlane, aerospace engineering.

Immersing. Engaging. Engineering. In China

Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
Summer Program in China

This summer the third class of engineering students will be participating in the Summer Engineering Program in China, a study abroad-internship opportunity. Like the other students before them they will spend seven weeks working closely with students at Tsinghua University in Beijing on a real-world design issue supplied by a multinational U.S. corporation.  Here’s what two of the students from the second class shared about their experience:

Mechanical engineering junior Jack Keller had already been to Europe, studying German, but he had not participated in a study-internship program quite like this. He and Ted Wagner were paired with two Tsinghua University students on a project for the Timken Company — designing a new method and device to consistently measure ribbed cylindrical roller bearings. One of the largest producers of precision bearings, Timken was not able to guarantee the consistency of this type of bearing.

“It really wasn’t a typical study-abroad experience,” Keller said. “We were working and acting as an independent team, for our project and our travel and entertainment.” Relying on his Notre Dame training and his teammates, Keller found that the best solution was a combination of ideas from the team, looking at the issues from a variety of perspectives.

For Jacob Hook, a senior aerospace engineering student, this was basically his first trip outside the United States. He and his teammates, three Chinese students, were tasked by Johnson Controls to reduce the weight of a car seat (an actual seat, not a baby carrier) by at least 20 percent while still maintaining safety standards. The team managed to reduce the weight of a seat by 32 percent, but at a higher cost than the current method. Hook considers the project, and the program a good experience: “I got a lot more insight into some of the more specialized applications of the classes I had been taking,” he said. “It was a great opportunity to do something unique and improve both my technical and cultural knowledge.”

For more information about the Summer China Program, contact Associate Professor Bill Goodwine  or visit http://controls.ame.nd.edu/mediawiki/index.php/Engineering_China_Summer_Program.

Notre Dame Junior Wins Schurz Prize

Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Mobile Application Development

Sean Fitzgerald, a junior in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, won first place in the Notre Dame-Schurz Prize competition for innovation. His project, Buses, which was among 10 finalists, is an app that provides real-time monitoring for public transportation riders. It uses remote notifications and advanced sensor statistics to recognize when users embark and debark a scheduled bus. That way, underfunded transportation systems can have advanced GPS tracking. This is useful for systems with little funding such as school buses, which provide children with 50,000,000 rides daily, yet do not have a centralized tracking service. The app also provides users with information and promotions from businesses near bus stops. This allows advertisers to save money because they can offer promotions only to people nearby.

Sponsored by Schurz Communications Inc., the parent company of the South Bend Tribune and WSBT TV and radio stations, the goal of the competition is to encourage students to develop digital solutions everyday life.

“This is the third Notre Dame Schurz Innovation Prize contest, so we’re building a history of innovation together,” said Todd Schurz Schurz Communications Inc. president and chief executive officer.

Junior Jonathan Cobian placed second with his app Around the BeND app, which is designed to provide ND/SMC/HC students with a one-stop shop for fun experiences and places to explore in the Notre Dame and South Bend area. Students can find out about weekly specials for local restaurants and bars, as well as information about upcoming events, such as sports and dorm functions.

HelpHub, an app developed by juniors Nikita Amelchenko and George Georgaklis, captured third place. The app pairs campus residents who have tasks that need to be performed with others who are willing to help them accomplish those tasks.

All of the applications were developed as part of a mobile application development course taught by Patrick Flynn, professor of computer science and engineering and concurrent professor of electrical engineering.

Other students who participated in the competition were:
Stuart Colianni, a junior

Confession Aggregator

An application that aggregates information on “confessions” pages for students at specific American universities

Elise Elden and Christine Gerardi, seniors


A safety-oriented mobile navigator based on crime statistics

John Mapelli, senior


An app that turns a phone’s music player into a jukebox that nearby users can control

Rachael Purta, Ph.D. candidate

A continuously running iOS
 app that records audio and supports the NetSense project, which captures the phone usage patterns of consenting subjects

Esteban Rojas, junior


An app that evaluates school cafeterias

Ryan Wheeler, junior


An app that helps new drivers with learning permit log hours, including night hour driving details and routes driven, determine the remaining requirements needed to obtain their driver’s license in their respective state

Alex Yurkowski, senior, and Andrew Bartolini, Ph.D. candidate


A cloud based natural disaster damage logging tool

"When It Rains, It Pours" in Mod Quad

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences
Campus RainWorks Challenge

The group of Notre Dame undergrads who participated in the EPA’s 2014 Campus RainWorks Challenge — students from civil & environmental engineering & earth sciences, architecture, and political science — were not talking about Morton Salt® when they proposed an innovative solution to an important storm water issue on campus.

Mod Quad, a green space on the northeast edge of campus, sits between the Pasquerilla East and Pasquerilla West dormitories. Drainage is poor, and — as one student put it — when a large storm occurs, “a small lake forms.” Since this is the main pathway for students living in these dorms, or for those walking onto campus from a nearby parking lot, the flooding can be a significant inconvenience.

Storm water run-off and flooding are common issues on university campuses and in many urban areas where added impervious surfaces, such as parking lots, roofs, and sidewalks, can overload the storm sewer systems. To solve this problem, the Mod Quad team used a “green design” approach: they proposed adding a rain garden. Actually, their solution encompasses not one but four gardens, new sidewalks with permeable concrete, additional vegetation on the edges of the buildings surrounding the garden sites, and new lighting.

Traditionally, rain gardens are excavated and then “rebuilt” with specific soil and plants to help catch contaminants from run-off, remove the pollutants, relieve stress on storm sewers, and enhance groundwater infiltration. That’s a lot of pressure for a space that also needs to be beautiful, especially when you pair that with the educational benefit of informing the public about the importance of sustainable storm water and water resource management (something the students also want to do). The new Mod Quad Rain Garden, as designed by students, would contain soils and plants native to northern Indiana, provide a habitat for wildlife such as birds and butterflies, increase natural filtration of the storm water in this area, and provide a community green space for students.

Shown, from left to right are Paul Hurley, Robert Nerenberg, Will Connors, Matt Matasci, Claire Sieradzki, and Charles Farrell. Not pictured are Elizabeth Andruszkiewicz, Madison Braman, Julie Cleveland, Alison Collins, William Gorman, Teresa Muldoon, Delma Palma, and Jesus Perez.
Mod Quad Rain Garden team members Elizabeth Andruszkiewicz, Madison Braman, Julie Cleveland, Alison Collins, Will Connors, William Gorman, Paul Hurley, Matthew Matasci, Teresa Muldoon, Delma Palma, Jesus Perez, and Claire Sieradzki took responsibility for all aspects of the project, with guidance from faculty adviser Robert Nerenberg, associate professor of civil & environmental engineering & earth sciences, and facilities advisor Charles Farrell, P.E., senior environmental & safety specialist at Notre Dame. The students are hoping that their design will be approved by University planners and included as part of the construction of two new dormitories in the area.

Fighting iBots

Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
Game Day for Engineers

Go Irish! On Friday, April, 11, 2014, mechanical engineering students from Notre Dame and Ohio Northern University (ONU) competed in the annual Robotic Football Game.

The Polar Bears defeated the Irish, 29-7, and captured the Brian Hederman  Memorial Robotic Competition Award. A Notre Dame student, Hederman suffered an untimely death after his freshman year in 1995. A drawing he left behind inspired the trophy and the competition.

The mechatronic game consisted of two 15-minute halves with normal football rules modified for mechanical play. The “players” were semi-autonomous and controlled by the student designers with remote controllers. According to Associate Professor Jim Schmiedeler, the experience of designing and building the football devices acquaints students with important principles used in intelligent prosthetics and other innovative robot-related research, such as biomedical devices and electromechanical systems, being conducted by Notre Dame researchers.

Engineering Peer Mentors

Peer mentors are among the best resources available to engineering students. Representing different departments in the College of Engineering, this group of dedicated juniors and seniors offers a valuable perspective: They have been where the first- and second-year students are. Many of them are peer mentors today because of their own experiences with peer mentors as a first-year student.

In addition to sharing important information, including study and exam tips, peer mentors are key in helping incoming high school students transition into the engineering program and second-year students adjust to the core program. They are vital in developing communities within engineering.

Peer mentors plan and coordinate social activities (ice skating, whiffle ball, and game nights); study sEngineering Peer Mentorsessions; career events (like “Résumé and Research,” “Engineering & Business,” and “Majors” nights); and service opportunities like blanket-making for local cancer patients, the Center for the Homeless toiletry drive, the Christmas giving tree, and Habitat for Humanity efforts.


For more information about peer mentors, visit http://www.nd.edu/~pmentor.

Service Abroad: ND SEED

Siix students in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences seeking to make a difference in the world combined their academic interests with their desire to serve their fellow man. They formed Notre Dame Students Empowering through Engineering Development (ND SEED), a registered and approved 501(c)3 corporation.

The students solicited sponsors and teamed with Bridges to Prosperity (B2P), a not-for-profit organization that fuels positive change by helping impoverished rural communities around the world construct reliable footbridges, which provide access to schools, clinics, jobs, and markets. After identifying a Honduran community that needed help (the village of Pena Blanca), the team began additional fund raising and explored design options.

ND SEED group photographPena Blanca was chosen because the existing bridge was very old and, as the students put it, very scary. The supporting cable, which was tied to a tree on one bank, was barbed wire. One bank was also much steeper than the other. This meant that the team needed to build more massive piers than originally thought to ensure structural integrity and safety. They designed and constructed the bridge alongside Pena Blanca residents.

The ND SEED TEAM focused on building a suspended footbridge in Palquí, Guatemala. Because of the topography of the area, the streams and tributaries flowing through the area can flood quickly and without warning. Another factor was that the village is divided into two parts, most of the children have to cross the river to get to school. The existing bridge was a rickety plank at the bottom of a steep gully. When the river is impassable, students have to walk an hour out of the way to attend school. Typically, attendance drops by half during the rainy season.

Working again with B2P, the Notre Dame students conducted a site survey and designed the bridge. They built the bridge (the anchors, cable placement, approaches, and decking).

For more information about ND SEED, visit http://www.nd.edu/~ndseed

Introduction to Engineering Summer Program (IEP)

IEP- Introduction to Engineering ProgramSince its inception, the interactive Introduction to Engineering summer program has been a hit with high school students across the country. For three weeks every summer rising juniors get a taste of college life.

They learn what it means to be an engineer, tour state-of-the-art facilities on campus and at nearby industries and manufacturing facilities, meet professional engineers, and are introduced to the different engineering disciplines offered at Notre Dame. There are “classes,” but a majority of the work is hands-on, requiring students to design and test their projects.

For information about IEP, click here.

Sink or "Swim"...

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences
Concrete Canoe Competition

Sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers, this annual competition challenges civil engineering students’ knowledge and creativity, not to mention their stamina as they design and build a concrete canoe. Winners of 18 regional competitions proceed to national finals, where students put to practical application what they have learned in the classroom.

Sixteen Notre Dame students prepared a canoe for the event, which requires the team to give an oral presentation, write a design paper, create a final product (following the competition’s aesthetics, durability, and design constraints), and participate in racing events such as men’s sprint, women’s sprint, women’s endurance, men’s endurance, and overall.

Strong Bodies Fight ...

The Bengal BoutsBengel Bouts

Service projects at Notre Dame take many forms. Since 1931 the Bengal Bouts, the University’s annual charity boxing tournament, has donated funds made during the Bouts to Holy Cross Missions in Bangladesh. The College of Engineering has long supported this sport-service event, in the spirit of the former director and coach of the Bouts Dominic “Nappy” Napolitano, who described the purpose of the Bouts as “Strong bodies fight, that weak bodies may be nourished.”

The Bengal Bouts donated $100,000 to the Holy Cross Missions, where the money funds a variety of educational and outreach initiatives. This is almost twice as much as the previous Bouts netted.