Letter from the Guest Editor

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Letter from the Guest Editor
Donnelly, Anne
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
University of Florida
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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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Volume 11, Issue 4
Fall 2010




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Letter from the Guest Editor

Anne Donnelly, Director of the Center for Undergraduate Research

The National Academy recently convened a panel of top engineering educators to discuss
what skills engineers of the future should have. Among these were strong analytical
skills, creativity, ingenuity, and professionalism. All of these qualities are demonstrated
by the authors of this selection of research papers describing undergraduate research
conducted in the College of Engineering. Two papers have implications for improving the
health of our environment. Foronda et al. experimented with a lead-free material
designed to replace a commonly used ceramic that is widely used in applications
including mobile phones, ultrasound, and diesel engines. The search for lead free
materials that perform well is driven by the fact that lead, a well known toxin, is released
in the manufacturing process. Basic research into lead free alternatives, as described by
Foronda et al., is helping to identify more environmentally friendly materials. Given the
many devices that use this material, the potential impact of a more environmentally
friendly alternative is large. Research conducted by Seltzer addresses another
environmental concern, that of water pollution. Surface runoff from parking lots and
other impervious surfaces can cause pollutants to wash into streams and other bodies of
water. These pollutants can be both dissolved or in particulate form. Seltzer studied the
removal rate of particulate matter in runoff from a UF parking lot under different flow
conditions. Learning how to maximize removal of particulate pollution from the
downstream bodies of water is research with important implications for the environment.

The third study in the selection explores fabrication of materials on the nanoscale.
Complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor technology is applied in integrated circuits
that impacts our daily lives as it is widely used in computers, cell phones, and most
electronic devices. Researchers are looking for alternatives to these devices to improve
performance. Teran's work involved the fabrication of carbon nanotubes and graphene
based films and the measurement of their properties. Moving from the nanoscale, the
next paper reports work designed to improve the development of hypersonic transports
and high speed reentry vehicles. A roadblock to the development of these is the inability
to measure pressure fields in high temperature flows. Coffman et al. worked on an
experimental characterization of the opto-mechanical transduction mechanism of a fiber
optic lever. Improvements in sensors that can function in high thermal energy flow
environments can lead to advances in transportation.

These papers all demonstrate the value of undergraduate research to the student, the
institution, and the disciplines. In each case, students have worked under the guidance of
a faculty member to increase the understanding of a fundamental issue in their field of
interest, from cleaner water, more environmentally sound manufacturing, improvements
in a fundamental component in communication and knowledge transfer devices, and
potential advances in aviation. By participating in this research, the students gained a
deeper understanding of the problems and challenges faced by their discipline, learned
how to design and conduct experiments to address the problem, and learned how to
communicate their findings to the scientific community. Students are not the only ones
who benefit from conducting research. Students help advance the research work of the
faculty mentor and institution, and can add to the knowledge base of their discipline.

These are but four examples of the undergraduate research being conducted at the
University of Florida. UF offers a wide variety of opportunities to students in all
disciplines. The UF Center for Undergraduate Research ( encourages
all students to make mentored research a part of their undergraduate experience here at
UF. The Journal of Undergraduate Research will continue to highlight the breadth and
depth of these activities across campus. All students are urged to not only participate in
research but to submit a manuscript to the JUR to share their research results with the
wider UF community.

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