New SDSM&T REU site aids nation’s wireless grid, energy independence and defense

Stefanie Botelho's picture
Monday, April 7, 2014

The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology has been awarded nearly a quarter of a million dollars for the new Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site, “Bringing Us Together, Improving Communications and Lives.” The site joins two others at Mines – one of only two universities in the state to have three active REU sites.

A 10-week summer program in electrical and computer engineering, the new REU site will expose undergraduates to hands-on research in communications related to global society and the country’s economy and defense. Students will investigate topics including unmanned vehicles, such as drones, used to clear buildings and in search and rescue operations; antennas for use in ground-penetrating radars and land mind detection; and analysis of bio-medical imagery, which allows for the detection of tumors. They will also explore renewable energy resources and their integration into the smart grid and wireless communications and networking, aimed at optimizing a frequency spectrum overburdened with wireless devices like cell phones and GPS.

Aimed at expanding the size and diversity of the nation’s science and engineering pool, the site will focus on underrepresented students, with the goal of having women and veterans comprise at least half of the participants, both from Mines and universities around the country.

“In addition to doing research, I believe an integral part of being successful beyond the undergraduate level is being able to communicate your results. We plan a heavy emphasis on technical communications. … Regardless of what career path the students pursue, this will be valuable in their futures. I hope the students gain a love of learning (research), valuable communications skills and go on to pursue graduate degrees in science and engineering fields,” said Thomas Montoya, Ph.D., director of the REU site and associate professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering.

Co-funded by the National Science Foundation and the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, the new REU site is the recipient of $274,400.00. It joins two other sites at the School of Mines: “Back to the Future” focused on research in metallurgical engineering and “Security Printing and Anti-Counterfeiting Technology” (SPACT).

“One of the hallmarks of a Mines education is our hands-on, engaged learning approach. We are very pleased to be able to offer a third funded summer research experience for undergraduates,” Mines President Heather Wilson said.

“This National Science Foundation award underscores the great work done by faculty and students at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. The REU site is a tremendous tool that will help students as they pursue their degrees in electrical and computer engineering. I am especially pleased the REU site has an emphasis on involving women and veterans in science education,” U.S. Senator Tim Johnson added.

The university also serves as the lead institution for the newly created SPACT center, where researchers address the nation’s most pervasive and destructive security and counterfeiting problems ranging from passports to pharmaceuticals.

REU Directors Grant Crawford, Ph.D., assistant professor, and Michael West, Ph.D., head and associate professor, Department of Materials & Metallurgical Engineering, are also leading an effort to implement a summer undergraduate symposium in Pierre that will bring together sites from across the state.