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NSF-funded site at Ohio State will inspire next generation of engineering researchers

An award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will help The Ohio State University’s College of Engineering provide research opportunities to undergraduate students who might not otherwise have access to such experiences.

The three-year, $386,231 Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site award will fund an annual summer program for 10 students from groups traditionally underrepresented in engineering to conduct research focused on biomechanics and mechano-biology (BMMB). The program will recruit a large majority of its participants from minority serving U.S. institutions with limited research opportunities. Interested students may apply online at bmereu.engineering.osu.edu through March 15.

The growing interdisciplinary field of BMMB strives to understand the mechanical behavior of biological systems and their responses to mechanical stimuli to address a number of healthcare issues. In addition to working alongside faculty and graduate student mentors from the departments of biomedical, materials science or mechanical engineering, the students will participate in weekly journal clubs, workshops and clinical and research facility tours. Students will also present their findings during a symposium, thus helping them become better communicators.

La'Tonia Stiner-JonesStiner-Jones

Assistant Dean of Graduate Programs La’Tonia Stiner-Jones, the principal investigator on the project, said not only will the program advance the field of BMMB, it will also help foster the development of a pool of talented young engineering researchers.

“Because we expect the majority of these students to pursue a graduate degree, they will continue to advance knowledge, serve as role models for future students from underrepresented groups and diversify the STEM workforce,” said Stiner-Jones, who is also an assistant professor of biomedical engineering. The project’s co-principal investigator is Associate Professor Gunjan Agarwal and lead senior personnel is Professor Keith Gooch, both of the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Graduate students and faculty mentors involved in mentoring the REU participants also will benefit by enhancing their skills in working with diverse colleagues. Additionally, an outreach activity with underrepresented students at a local middle school will help attract future generations to pursue engineering degrees and careers.

by Meggie Biss, College of Engineering Communications | biss.11@osu.edu