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Students Play Important Role in NSF Site Visit

Hiram Badillo-Almarez (left) and Darren Vian (far right) discuss their research work with members of the site team.

SLC students played an active part in the NSF site visit to MCEER, held June 3-4, 2003. The group met the day before the site visit to discuss the Council’s responsibilities and participation in the review. Posters were set up in the evening and were on display during the pre-site visit reception. This gave students the opportunity to talk with MCEER’s principal investigators and industry partners in a relaxed atmosphere.

The next day, SLC President Jeffrey Berman made a formal presentation to the Site Team, where he discussed the past year’s SLC activities and its plans for the future. He also chaired a student panel, where current and former MCEER students had the opportunity to share their experiences and what MCEER meant to them. Current UB Ph.D. candidate Diego Lopez Garcia highlighted his trip to Taiwan on the Field Mission (see seminar review), Daniel Fenz, undergraduate student, told how his experience with the REU program led him to continue his studies at the graduate level (see Spotlight article), and James Mason, Ph.D. graduate from Cornell, discussed how he was able to carry his research into practice.

Some students participated in the NSF review process without making the trip to Buffalo. During the MCEER Virtual Classroom demonstration session, SLC Vice-Chair Terri Norton demonstrated the Center’s distance-learning capabilities via a webcast presentation of her MCEER-funded Ph.D. research at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida. Ali Ashrafi from the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, NJ, and Yi Zhihua from the City College of New York, made additional student research webcast presentations for the session.

Later in the afternoon, SLC students participated in a research poster display session. Twelve posters were displayed: Hiram Badillo-Almaraz, Jeffery Berman, Diego Lopez Garcia, Benedikt Halldorsson, Eleni Pavlou, Michael Pollino, Panayiotis Roussis, Ramiro Vargas, Darren Vian, all from the University at Buffalo; Cagdas Kafali, Cornell University; Elliott Goodwin, University of Nevada, Reno; and Mike Mio, ImageCat, Inc. Student posters can be viewed on MCEER’s website.

Following the poster session, students met with the NSF review panel for a closed-door SWOT discussion. This year, prior to the NSF visit, MCEER-SLC students conducted a SWOT analysis via an Internet survey, allowing for simplified compilation of results. A brief report was produced and presented to the NSF panel, serving as a starting point for numerous discussions. Following adjournment of the SWOT session, students met for a relaxed dinner at Pearl Street Brewery and Restaurant in downtown Buffalo.

Upcoming Activities

The annual SLC retreat is scheduled to take place in September at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. It will include short presentations by SLC students, a seminar by a Cornell faculty member, and social activities in and around the Ithaca/Cayuga Lake valley area. Cagdas Kafali and Anita Jacobson will coordinate the weekend’s activities.

The “Tri-Center Shake Table Competition” for undergraduate students, was discussed at the SLC meeting. Draft rules for the competition produced by the PEER-SLC were shown and a committee was selected to work with similar committees at PEER and MAE.

Due to the positive feedback received in the past, the SLC is pleased to announce that it will once again produce a Student Research Accomplishments (SRA) volume. Ramiro Vargas and Benedikt Halldorsson of UB will coordinate this year’s publication. Currently, the intended target for submission of all research articles is November 2003.

--Darren Vian, University at Buffalo

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