Tuesday, April 15, 2014

UURAF

One of the many activities undergraduate students can participate in here at MSU is undergraduate research. I have worked in a research lab in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science since the beginning of my freshman year. The Honors College pays me a stipend to do research for my first 2 years at MSU as a part of their Professorial Assistantship (PA) program. The following link has more information about the PA program: http://honorscollege.msu.edu/professorial-assistantship-pa-program Even though the PA program was how I got involved with research, there are other ways to get involved with research.

Friday, April 4th was the annual University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum, called UURAF for short. The event was held at the MSU Union and about 660 undergraduate students participated. This is an opportunity for undergraduate students to present their research as posters in a morning or afternoon poster session or to give oral presentations. All of the posters and oral presentations are divided into sections within their categories for judging. There are graduate student evaluators who give feedback and faculty judges who score the presentations to determine the first place winners in each section. Other faculty members, students, and family members also attend and ask questions about the posters.

One of the other undergraduate students I work with and I made a poster of our research and presented it during the afternoon poster session. Neither of us had ever participated in an event like UURAF before, so we thought it would be a good chance to gain more experience explaining our research to other people. Talking about our poster was not as bad as we thought it would be, especially as we got more comfortable as the 2-hour session progressed.

Standing next to my UURAF 2014 research poster
After all of the events of the day, there was an awards ceremony. At this ceremony, the winners of some study abroad scholarships, the Faculty Mentor of the Year award, and first place awards in each section of UURAF were announced. My poster won first place in its section within the Engineering, Computer Science, & Mathematics category! The winners each get $100 and are eligible to submit their work for the UURAF Grand Prize, which is $500 and will be announced in early June. Even when working with a group, each member of a winning project earns the $100 prize money (up to $400 would be awarded to a group of 4 people or more). So, my poster partner and I did not have to split our prize money, we each won $100! When we decided to do this event, money and awards never crossed our minds, but it is definitely a nice bonus! We wanted to have the experience of making a research poster and presenting it a poster session, and I now feel more comfortable talking about my research, so we accomplished what we set out to do.

There were so many interesting posters that I wish I could have gotten the chance to look at them, but I had to stay with my poster the entire poster session. I had a quiz and an exam in the morning, so I was unable to attend the morning session and stay for the entire day. I am really glad that I participated in this event, and I would be interested in participating again in the future.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Relay for Life

It is the last month of school, and it finally feels like spring outside. I just signed up for my junior classes, and most other people will be signing up for their classes soon. Signing up for classes early is one perk of being an Honors College member. Today I have my chemical engineering thermodynamics exam, and the month will end with me taking my final exams.

Last Friday was Relay for Life at MSU. Relay for Life is an event held in a lot of communities around the country where teams raise money for the American Cancer Society and have members walk around a track through the night. This year it was held at the Breslin Center, and last year it was at Jenison Field House. Thank goodness the event have been held inside the past two year, because you never know how the weather is going to be this time of year. Even though the weather was nice this year, the campus was flooded AND it was snowing last year!  During the event, there were performances by various a cappella groups and dance clubs. Each team had a stand along the track where they sold a variety of things to donate the money to cancer research.


There were a lot of student groups in attendance, including a team of Spartan engineers, which was open to anyone in engineering. The event was especially large because Relay was a part of Greek Week this year. There are a lot of professional and social Greek organizations on campus. Just because you are studying engineering does not mean that you cannot be involved in Greek Life. I know lots of engineering students that are members of many different social sororities and fraternities, including me! I am an active member of Phi Sigma Rho, a social sorority for engineering majors. I really like having a large support group that understands what I am going through as a girl in engineering. We also do a lot of fun events, like spring formal, which helps me take the time to enjoy myself in addition to my school work.

With events like Relay for Life, members of all types of student organizations can come together and support a good cause.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Going back to Europe!

The spring semester is halfway over, so summer is quickly approaching! The snow is melting and the sidewalks are clear, but knowing Michigan, it will probably get cold again. I have finally decided on something I am going to do this summer. Two months from now, I will be in Europe as a part of the International Corporate Tour.

The International Corporate Tour (ICT) is a two-week experience for freshmen and sophomores in business and engineering. It is an opportunity for students to visit some of MSU's international corporate partners, network with them, and tour their facilities. There is no homework, but this learning experience does NOT count for course credit. In each of the destinations, there will be at least one free day to explore the city. There are two ICTs this summer: one in Europe and another in China. As part of the Europe ICT, London, Cologne, Luxembourg, Geneva, and Venice are some of the cities we will be visiting. Some of the companies we are planning on visiting are BP, GM, Eaton,  ArcelorMittal, Bosch, Diageo, and ALCOA.

I think that a program like the ICT definitely has its advantages. A lot of people forget that you have to do homework when you study abroad. I spent the two weeks after I returned home from my trip finishing up all my homework. You may not get class credit for an ICT, but you can focus on all of the company visits and exploring cities without worrying about any homework. Also, I have to do minimal planning for the trip. I just have to pay the cost of the trip, buy my plane ticket, and attend a few informational meetings. They even suggested a flight so that we could travel with the group, which  made finding a flight really easy. I do not have to worry about any of the logistics, like lodging and travel, which would be necessary if I planned a trip to Europe on my own.

I already have some international experience on my resume from my study abroad last summer, and I think that a lot of companies were impressed. I have been asked to elaborate on my study abroad at career fairs and during interviews, so I know that it is definitely something they look at. A lot of companies that have presented at club meetings have international opportunities for engineers, such as rotations abroad as a part of a rotational program. I have been to London and Venice before, but I haven't been to any of the other cities. My family and I went to London almost 6 years ago for a family vacation, and I went to Venice last summer during the free weekend of my study abroad trip.

I took this picture last summer when I visited Venice, Italy
I am looking forward to going back to Europe, especially because I had so much fun last summer! Visiting all of these countries and facilities will help me see in what kind of environment I would like to live and work. Michigan State University has a variety of international experiences available, you just have to choose which one is right for you!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Back from Break

Last week was Spring Break for Michigan State. A lot of people I know went to Florida and Mexico, but I just went back home to cold Brighton. The weather here hasn't decided if it wants to be spring or winter. The past two days the snow was melting, but right now it looks like a blizzard! Everything is white, and I really do not want to walk to class in this weather! One of the most random things I had to get used to when I came to college was that I had to actually walk outside and cross the street to get to class. In high school I wore heels since all my classes were in the same building, but that doesn't happen anymore! Now that I am deeper in my engineering curriculum, a lot of my classes are in and near the Engineering Building, but I am still not going to wear high heals to class anytime soon.

One important part of choosing a college is the faculty. The faculty are the people who will be teaching you classes, writing recommendation letters, and maybe even giving you a campus job if you work in a lab or grading papers. I like learning from people who are very involved in and excited about what they do, and most of the engineering faculty I know are like this. A lot of the professors are involved with a lot of cool projects at the university and national level. I like hearing about all of the interesting things that Michigan State and its professors are involved in, so I thought that maybe you would be, too.

Mechanical Engineering professor Farhang Pourboghrat went to the White House at the end of last month for the president's announcement on a new Detroit manufacturing institute. Canton Township will be home to the new Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing Innovation Institute which will bring about 10,000 new jobs to the area. The $148 million Department of Defense institute will be supported by $70 million of federal funding and the rest will be supported by consortium partners. Here is the link to the full article with the list of university, corporate, and organizational sponsors:
Farhang Pourboghrat

http://www.egr.msu.edu/news/2014/02/24/me-professor-headed-white-house-announcement-manufacturing-institute
 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Engineers Week 2014

Last week was Engineers Week, which is an entire week dedicated to events related to careers in engineering. Some of the events include the annual Evening with Industry Banquet and the Engineering Expo which I both attended.

The Evening with Industry Banquet was Wednesday night, and it was at the Huntington Club on the fourth floor of the stadium. One of the sponsors of the event was SWE, so I know some of the girls that helped run the event. The event was free to attend, but attendees had to register and pay a ten dollar deposit by a deadline. The deposit was returned to each person as they checked into the event. Students get a chance to network with many of the same company representatives that attend the Engineering Expo the next day. They also get to eat a free dinner and listen to a keynote speaker.

The program starts with check-in and mingling with the company representatives. Then, everyone takes a seat and company-sponsored scholarships are awarded. Students who are involved with SWE, Women in Engineering, Diversity Programs Office, and service can apply or be nominated for some of these awards. Then, it is time for dinner, which includes a salad, chicken or vegetarian main dish, and cake for dessert. Dinner is also a good time to talk to some of the representatives at your table. A talk given by a keynote speaker was the final event of the evening.

The Engineering Expo is a career fair that takes over the Engineering Building for an afternoon. Companies look for engineers for summer internships, co-ops, and full-time positions at this event. A lot of the companies conduct interviews at the stadium the following day. I spoke with a lot of company representatives, many of whom were MSU engineering alumni. One lady had my research professor as a professor and asked me to tell him that she said hi. Knowing that some of the recruiters were once in the exact same spot as I am now made me feel much more comfortable talking with them. There were so many people and companies that it was hard to walk through the hallways! I did have an interview with one company for an internship, and many of my friends had interviews for internships and co-ops.

Over the past week with the SWE conference leading into the festivities of Engineers Week, I have been super busy. I am definitely ready for Spring Break next week!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

SWE Region H Conference

This weekend I attended the SWE Region H Conference at Michigan Tech in Houghton, MI. SWE is the Society of Women Engineers, which is a professional society comprised of collegiate and professional members. Membership is not limited to female engineers; I even saw a handful of guys attending the conference. Every year there is a national conference and each region hosts its own regional conference. The conference took place all day Saturday, and we spent all day Friday and Sunday on a charter bus traveling to and from the conference.

Michigan State has its own section of SWE, and I am a member of our local section and a national member. We have meetings that are generally biweekly where we have food and company representatives come to talk. It does not cost any money to be a member of our Michigan State section and attend meetings, but it does cost a small amount of money to be a national collegiate member. I regularly go to meetings, but I wanted to get a little more involved, so I thought going to the regional conference was a good way to do that.

The conference started with a keynote speaker, Patricia K. Poppe, who is vice president of customer experience and operations for Consumers Energy. Then the president of SWE Stacey Delvecchio gave the State of SWE address. I really liked learning about what was going on with SWE at a regional, national, and international level, because I never really thought about what SWE does beyond what we do at MSU. After, there was a joint meeting with the professional and collegiate session, and we voted on where we wanted to hold next year's regional conference. Each section had one vote, so I was able to contribute my opinion. The 2015 SWE Region H conference is going to be at Notre Dame in South Bend, IN, which will be a much closer drive than to Houghton! Then we separated into professional and collegiate sections, and had our own meetings and sessions. I attended a session on "Promoting Your Work with Powerful Presentations." I thought that the speaker was very engaging, and I learned a few tips, like to not dim the lights during your presentation in order to keep your audience engaged.

For lunch, we had boxed lunches and got to talk to the company representatives that were going to be at the career fair later that day. I liked that the atmosphere was relaxed and casual, but it was a little awkward when a representative wanted to shake you hand and it was in a bag of Doritos!

In the afternoon, there was a series of four breakout sessions that anyone could attend. When we registered, we chose what sessions we wanted to attend, because a couple of the special sessions had limited space. There were sessions on interviewing tips, building teams, fundraising, and leadership success, for example. There were also some special sessions that filled up fast, like snowshoeing and dog-sledding. Instead of attending a breakout session, people could also take tours of Michigan Tech departments and facilities and of local attractions, like a brewery and mine. One of the other options was the career fair. It was on a much smaller scale than the events at MSU, but I was able to talk to a lot of companies and hand them my resume. Over the course of the weekend, I accumulated quite the haul of free stuff from the career fair and conference in general.

That night we had the final event: the banquet. Because of the weather in Houghton, our keynote speaker's plane was not able to land! Our keynote speaker was Martha N. Sullivan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Sensata Technologies. Good thing engineers are problem-solvers, because she was still able to talk with us over Skype.

Me (left) with some of the MSU SWE girls at the banquet
I had a wonderful SWEekend and was definitely glad that I went, even though I had to miss class on Friday. I liked listening to the speakers and learning how they were able to build their careers starting out with their engineering degrees. I also liked networking with other students and professionals and learning about their experiences. Overall, it was a great experience, and I would like to go to the regional conference next year!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Mr. President's Visit

Friday was a pretty ordinary day, except for the increase in police officers, barricaded roads, and the occasional helicopter flying by. The current President of the United States was on the MSU campus to sign the Farm Bill into law. All of the events were closed to the public, but I still managed to wave to him.

I was walking along my usual route from organic chemistry to my chemical engineering class, when I noticed snipers on the roof of Vet Med and a small crowd gathering across the street. A couple of people had signs, but most of the people seemed like they stumbled upon the scene by chance like me. I figured that meant that the President was inside and possibly coming out soon, so I decided to stop walking and join the group of people. After all, I still had plenty of time until class started.

I stood there for a while in the freezing cold talking to some of my classmates when some flashing lights turned on. It was so cold that my phone kept on turning off, so I got only one picture of the scene before any of the action started. A procession of cars started to drive out, but not through the exit that I thought they would be using. I ran over to the exit they actually were using and walked up a small snow bank from which I waved to the procession. There were two official-looking black cars, and in the second one I saw an older-looking man sitting in the back left window seat. Sitting next to him was another man, but I couldn't see his face from the angle I was at. Also, it was pretty difficult to see through the glass of the car windows. According to one of my classmates who was at another position in the crowd, that man was the President and he was waving to the onlookers.


After a lot of cars drove by, it was all over. I just walked to my next class like usual and I made it there right on time. It was a little disappointing that I couldn't get a good view of him, but hey, I was about 20 ft from the President of the United States!