Student Research Projects
This past summer Aaron has been working in a lab under Dr. Subbiah and Dr. Birla on a project with ConAgra on East Campus. ConAgra produces many precooked frozen meals to sell and food safety is a top priority. “Our research is trying to develop a more accurate way of instructions of how to cook the meals that cover all ranges of microwave ovens,” Aaron explains. The current research method being used is to have a lot of different microwave ovens in the room and test each one with different food products. “It’s very time consuming and requires a lot of food,” he said. So the lab Aaron is working in is developing a new way of research by using a computer simulation called COMSOL Multiphysics. Within the software they are able to draw the microwave oven cavity, the food product and the tray in 3D and then include the actual microwaves, specific heat, dielectric properties of the food, etc. when evaluating the food. The models provide a more accurate and efficient method of measuring the heat transfer to the food over a certain period of time to validate heating time required for different microwave ovens.
Lauren is working on a project with Dr. Jones and Dr. Bashford through the Biomedical Imaging and Biosignal Analysis (BIBA) Laboratory. Her research consists of working with the USDA's Meat and Animal Research Center on analyzing data points taken on the physiological traits of cows. These traits are effects of environmental factors such as solar, temperature, humidity, provided shade, etc. “I then use MATLAB to analyze the data given and find a threshold where data goes from just being data to serious danger,” explains Lauren. The key with finding the threshold is then being able to determine what the factor is that is causing a threat to the cows. They will then be able to give this information to farmers and feedlot managers as a personalized plan.
Last summer Emily was involved in a research project through the USDA Agroecosystem Management Research Unit. This lab primarily focused on the growth of pathogens, including E. coli and Salmonella, found in different environments and conditions. “E. coli is a bacteria found in many animals and sometimes water systems,” she said. Emily was most surprised by how instant of an impact the research can make. Much of the work she was involved with affected a wide range of people, from farmers who they collected the samples from, to the consumers who eat the food. Overall, being able to reduce the amount of outbreaks or possibly even eliminate them could have an outstanding impact.
Emily really enjoyed being able to apply what she learned in class to a real life setting. Before this job she was unsure about what emphasis area to go in to, but the experience helped guide her towards deciding on biomedicine.
Although Max is a Biological Systems Engineering student he is working in a lab through the Mechanical and Material Engineering Department under Dr. Bashford and Dr. Hawks. The project is funded through NASA and consists of developing a tool for NASA to study intracranial pressure in an effort to prevent permanent visual impairment. The current research plan is to apply pressure to a model eye with an ultrasound transducer and monitor relative changes in blood flow velocity in the eye. The results from the research will hopefully lessen the danger to astronauts as they increase extended space travel.
This summer Luke started an internship through Dr. Kranz involving irrigation pump efficiency research. The overall goal of the research is to develop an efficiency rating for the pumps that is along the lines of an energy star guide. The purpose of this is so the efficiency can be marketed along with the pumps and then the consumers can understand what size of pump they should buy based on their needs. “We want to make the efficiency more readily accessible,” said Luke. The developed energy star guide will be for the overall pumping plant which includes the motor, pump, and any drives that need to be attached.
One of their research goals is to record on the center pivot systems the flow rates at various points in a field, power use, pumping pressure, and water level height. “We can then analyze the data to develop the guide to see how efficiency is affected by pumping height and various other factors from the location of the pivot,” explains Luke. To go about this they will use an ultrasonic flow meter to measure the flow rate, a transducer for the pressure, and a water level transducer will be used for the pumping height.
A great way to become involved with research is by initially volunteering. Nicole discovered this and is currently volunteering for Dr. Bashford in his lab. One of the projects she is working on is through the NFL. Many football players experience concussions and there has been a lot of connections with it to brain damage. The research that Nicole is involved with is using ultrasounds on the brain to see what kinds of impact concussions have on the brain. As a member of the diving team Nicole is also able to relate to the research and maintains high interest in it.
Nicole has also been working on a project through NASA about researching the effects of pressure on eyes. Some of what she does consists of putting silicon molds of eyes together and then testing them. “My favorite part is seeing what you can actually do with your classes and how to apply them,” said Nicole.