Undergraduates spend summer gaining first-hand research experience

Undergraduate students present their summer research at the Kimmel Center in Washington Square.

For most students, summer vacation entails a well-deserved break from studies, a repose from the rigors of academic pursuits. But for 104 undergraduate students at NYU Tandon, summer presents an even more intense academic challenge: the Undergraduate Summer Research Program. Offered the opportunity to be directly involved in cutting-edge research with 32 world-renowned academics, these undergraduates are more than willing to swap lazy beach days for stimulating lab sessions.

Each year for nearly a decade, NYU Tandon has opened its labs during the summer months to a select number of young researchers to collaborate with faculty mentors. The students, hand-picked by faculty to come work in their respective labs, are given an invaluable opportunity to enhance their skills and perform groundbreaking research with extremely qualified personnel. And since last summer, the Tandon student researchers were able to collaborate with fellow students around the world, from places as far as NYU Abu Dhabi to schools close to home, like the University of Rochester and Penn State University. On August 12, the students set up in NYU's Kimmel Center in Manhattan to present their findings and share their hard work.

A few project highlights from this year include:

Lightweight Metal Matrix Composites

Steven Eric Zeltmann first participated in the Undergraduate Summer Research Program in 2013, and has been working with Assistant Professor Nikhil Gupta of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering ever since. “I owe it to this program for getting me started,” said Zeltmann, now a co-author of seven peer-reviewed journal articles and presenter at multiple international materials science conferences.

Zeltmann — along with undergrads Keerthana A.Prakash, Dana Kohls, and Akane Wakai — worked with Dr. Gupta to develop lightweight zinc-matrix syntactic foams by means of various processing methods for their mechanical properties under quasi-static and dynamic loading. The successful development of these materials will have applications in reducing the weight of ships, in which zinc is frequently used for structural purposes.

Crowd-sensing for Urban Pollution Monitoring

“Seven million people die from air pollution each year,” said student researcher Riya Varughese. Varughese and Muhammad Shujaat Mirza of NYU Abu Dhabi teamed up with Assistant Professor Quanyan Zhu of the electrical and computer engineering department to monitor air pollution in New York City using wearable sensors and a mobile app. The two students collected air pollution data with the goal of compiling a real-time pollution map for New York City so that New Yorkers can seek out less polluted routes to their destinations.

Mathematics of Climate Change: Investigation of Mathematical Models in Current Research

For decades, scientists have been grappling with the inability to accurately model climate change and quantify the extent of global warming as a result of unpredictable changes in clouds from the anthropogenic influx of greenhouse gases. Hannah Lee and Sagari Datta of NYU Tandon and Danton Zhao, Rigoberto Vazquez, and Todd Lombardi of NYU Abu Dhabi worked alongside faculty members Lindsey van Wagenen and Michel Lobenberg of the mathematics department to compute cloud data and compare climate models using mathematical models to study patterns and discrepancies in cloud feedback over time.


Student researchers Akash Das, Abhiroop CVK, Jenny Ijoma, and Amy Wu devoted their summer to studying ischemia, a condition referring to the damage arising from inadequate blood supply in the brain. Ischemic stroke is a leading cause of death and a major cause of disability and impairment of cognitive function. Under the expert guidance of Alexandra Seidenstein and Tommy S. Lee, lecturers in the chemical and biomolecular engineering department, the four undergraduate students attempted to study the ischemic cascade via 3D computational modeling as an alternative to invasive procedures.

“Ischemia is a really important medical condition that's not fully understood,” explained economics, computer science, and premed major Akash Das. “There is limited understanding of how to treat the disease, and thus parts of the brain die and the brain loses its function and in worst cases, the patient dies. What I hope this research will bring is a better tool to use for treatment and diagnosis to save patients worldwide.”

Judy Lee
College of Arts and Science
B.A. in Sociology, Class of 2018