A Summer of Research: The Importance of REU’s at UConn

By: Ben Donohue & Olivia Ortegon

Research is a valued and highly respected part of an engineer’s career. However, opportunities are not always easy to come by. At C2E2, undergraduate students have the unique opportunity to gain undergraduate research experience that expands upon their classroom knowledge while gaining experience in the field of hydrogen technologies.

“I wanted to do something more enriching to get experience other than just classwork,” Matthew Maramo shared, a summer’22 REU student. Maramo’s research focus was on Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) including measuring the thickness and optical properties of the films to see how ideal the growth pattern is, experience running reactors, as well as troubleshooting equipment.

UConn’s REU program is focused on hydrogen technologies and provides unique opportunities not limited to just UConn students. Daniel Shea (Worchester Technical Institute-WPI), Tara Mercer (Binghamton University), Zachary Manfredi (Worchester Technical Institute), Zipporah Chang (Howard University) all shared their thoughts on their experience coming from different universities;

“Since C2E2 is mostly graduate students and professors, I think it’s really interesting they gave someone like me, who’s an undergraduate, the opportunity to be in the lab… They don’t teach fuel cells and water electrolysis in undergraduate courses,” Shea shared.

“I do research at my current school (Binghamton University) but I thought it would be good to get a different experience and be in a different lab setting. UConn was able to provide me with room and board, a stipend, and research in an area of study I haven’t had at my current school,” Mercer explained.

“UConn is close to home for me. Despite living close, I’ve never been to UConn. Being able to live on a different campus, meeting new people from different states and being able to grow my social network provides a unique opportunity for me. C2E2 is one of a kind and to be here where all these people are working on these renewable technologies and clean energy systems is very rewarding, especially when we’re trying to move away from carbon emissions,” Manfredi stated.

All of the students are devoted to contributing towards clean energy solutions. This was evident with Zipporah Chang, whose main work is researching an optimal price structure that hydrogen could be sold to benefit its investors.

“We need to consider the benefits of the hydrogen agenda for all parties involved. The goal is to invest in hydrogen technology in areas where it’s the most beneficial and necessary so we can have a diversity of renewable sources of energy,” Chang said.

While research is easy to get fully invested in, Manfredi reminds us, “The problem with our research is that we can get caught up in it and forget the big picture. We have to remember that we have a purpose before we get caught up in the minute details”.

It is evident when talking with the REU students that this program has had a positive impact and an educational benefit for the students that participated. It not only provides them with the opportunity to learn about the field but it provides a healthy environment for students to share their ideas and to forge new relationships.

“The most surprising thing for me is that this is a program for engineers. I have no engineering experience, I am purely a chemist and I will stay a chemist. It was very interesting how well the program was suited for what I wanted to do,” Mercer noted.

“This program provided me with research experience that is especially important as I am pursuing graduate school. It’s also great to be a part of the encouragement of hydrogen technology,” Chang stated.

“This experience has been great overall, I’d recommend it to anyone interested in academic research, or in graduate school, specifically since you’re working with graduate students. I met a lot of cool and talented people doing this,” Maramo shared.

C2E2 appreciates the hard work of the summer REU students and their dedication towards a cleaner brighter future for all.

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