Throughout the spring semester, there was always something to do: work on that essay, finish writing up a program, do practice problems, or study for the upcoming test. With the semester now over, an important question comes up: what do I do with all this free time?
Fortunately, LMU provides plenty of opportunities for students to stay busy over the summer months. One can take summer classes, conduct research with a professor, start an internship, become a Teacher’s Assistant, volunteer, etc. Personally, I was accepted into the College of Science and Engineering’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP), and am currently conducting research on drones with Professor Gustavo Vejarano of the Electrical Engineering Department. The goal of my project is to write a program in Python (a web programming language) that will have a drone search for the optimal path for finding targets (currently red coasters) in an area.
At first, it was intimidating starting my research because some of the things I’m working are new to me. For example, using a drone and instantly going to write a code to control it, as well as having the drone communicate with another device to capture images. I’ve since learned to see that this is precisely why we have an advisor and other students working with us – so that we become familiar with what was once unknown. There is not always a clear answer for what’s being done, which is why the research is being done in the first place.
While the focus for SURP is to conduct research, it provides much more than just project funding; program participants have the opportunity to live on campus for the duration of the research project (six weeks) and there are bonding events planned throughout the course of the program for us, such as lunches and game nights. There are also workshops that are setup to assist in the research process, including help with using databases, writing an abstract, crafting a resume and using LinkedIn.
Doing research is a great way to get in touch with the type of work you may do as an Engineering major once you have received your degree. It’s allowing me to see if this type of work is right for me, or if I want to utilize their degree in a different way. Conducting research also puts things we learn during the semester into practice and allows for greater exploration and understanding.
In order to get accepted into the program, you have to follow a few steps. Typically, the application for SURP comes out mid-March and is due early-April. One of the best things you can do to have an opportunity for research is to go up to a professor whose research you’d like to work on early into the semester and ask them. As part of the application, students fill out the name of the project they want to work on along with the professor they will work with, discuss the project briefly and describe why they want to conduct research. Additionally, there is also the opportunity to conduct research during the semester through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), which follows a similar process to SURP.
Stay tuned for my findings and have a great summer!