The National Science Foundation has awarded Virginia Tech funding to continue undergraduate research experiences in interdisciplinary aspects of water research.

The $382,296 grant will allow the faculty and graduate student mentors, representing Virginia Tech's colleges of Engineering, Science, Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Architecture and Urban Studies, to engage 30 undergraduates from various engineering and science disciplines in the interdisciplinary aspects of water research over three years, starting this summer.

This specific research program for undergraduates at Virginia Tech was established in 2007. Since then, 56 undergraduate researchers representing more than 40 institutions from all over the country have graduated. 

Altogether, this program at Virginia Tech has secured more than $1 million in funding from NSF to promote undergraduate research related to water.

Participants spend 10 weeks in the summer working on a research project supervised by faculty and graduate student mentors. They are provided professional development activities including seminars and weekly field trips. 

Other activities are targeted at improving communication skills through research papers, weekly reflection papers, YouTube videos, and oral presentations. Social and cultural activities for professional growth and bonding are offered.

Vinod K. Lohani, a professor of engineering education and an adjunct faculty in civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, is the principle investigator on this project.

His colleagues from various departments are: Marc Edwards, Amy Pruden, Andrea Dietrich, Erich Hester, and Jennifer Irish, all of civil and environmental engineering; Madeline Schreiber, of geoscience; Cayelan Carey of biological sciences;  Kang Xia of crop and soil environmental sciences; and Brook Kennedy and Akshay Sharma of industrial design. 

John Muffo, former director of academic assessment at Virginia Tech, will serve as an external expert for the site evaluation.

"The interdisciplinary focus in water research is the most exciting part of this undergraduate research experience," Lohani, site director, said. "Implementation of this interdisciplinary study has enabled us to develop other collaborative activities and proposals that are targeted at improving interdisciplinary research and education in water sciences and engineering," he added.

In a survey of past student participants, 68 percent of the graduates of this site plan said they planned to obtain a graduate degree in water sciences and engineering.

The site is housed within a lab known as the LabVIEW Enabled Watershed Assessment System, a teaching and research lab in the engineering education department. The undergraduate research experience program dates are May 25 through Aug. 2 for this summer. 

All selected fellows will receive a stipend of $4,500, travel reimbursement, and housing and meals on campus. Applicants must be citizens or permanent residents of the U.S.

Further details are available at the lab website.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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