Students embrace University's research opportunities

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Students from a variety of different departments and academic disciplines apply their coursework to individualized research projects, yielding outstanding results and notable opportunities for professional development.


Research opportunities abound at Waynesburg University, where students partner with faculty mentors to perform and present intensive research projects at local, regional and national conferences and workshops.


Waynesburg University encourages students to present their work by hosting its own Undergraduate Research Symposium each spring, in which Waynesburg undergraduates actively involved with research projects are eligible to showcase their work by displaying a poster or by giving an oral presentation.


“Research is a valuable aspect of scholarship, and communication of research is fundamental to the advancement of knowledge,” said Dr. Chad Sethman, the University's coordinator of undergraduate research and an assistant professor of biology.


At each stage of their academic careers, Waynesburg students engage in research opportunities that not only develop their expanding portfolios, but also allow them to identify and hone specific research interests. Along the way, many students take an active role in the University's nationally recognized American Chemical Society (ACS) “Outstanding” Chapter and manage monthly labs for homeschooled students and the Cosmetic Chemistry Program offered to local Girl Scout members, among many others community science initiatives.


Many students, such as Adam Roberge, a junior chemical engineering major from Elizabethtown, Pa., dive deeper into their academic passions through prestigious internship placements at companies such as Bayer Corporation, the Mayo Clinic, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and most recently, Roberge's work with the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN).


In the summer 0f 2012, Roberge became one of 80 chosen out of a pool of 800 undergraduate student applicants to conduct research with NNIN, which, in conjunction with the National Science Foundation (NSF), organizes one of the largest and most successful Research for Undergraduate Programs (REU) in nanotechnology. The NNIN REU program affords the opportunity for undergraduate student applicants to perform and gain research experience at one of fourteen nanotechnology facilities across the country each year.


With the help of Dr. Evonne Baldauff, assistant professor of chemistry, and Dr. Robert LaCount, professor of chemistry, Roberge claims he was well prepared for the work he conducted in the REU program.


“A lot of the chemistry I performed was based on basic principles that Waynesburg's chemistry classes had,” Roberge said.


Each student in the program interacted daily with faculty members, graduate assistants and facility staff about his or her individual research project. Roberge's assigned project was to explore the formation of Quantum Dots, or “nanometer sized semiconductors that absorb and emit very specific wavelengths of light,” during a process called aerosol formation.


During aerosol formation, a solution is mixed into an atomizer which then sprays the solution into a tube furnace where the quantum dots grow.


“My job was twofold: to try and create Quantum Dots of various sizes by altering the temperature of the furnace, and to try and see what would happen to the quantum dots if the ratio of the reactants was altered,” Roberge said.


During his time in the REU program, Roberge spent nine weeks at his research site in St. Louis and one week in Washington D.C. for the end of program Research Convocation, where all of the research conducted by interns from the various sites is presented.


After graduating from Waynesburg, Roberge plans to attend Washington University of St. Louis to finish his engineering degree. The invaluable opportunity he received in working alongside scientists in their respective fields, he believes, will help him to excel in the completion of his undergraduate degree as well as his future endeavors in graduate school. Ultimately, he hopes to pursue a job where he will have the opportunity to perform corporate research.