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Undergraduate Researchers

Chelsea Vane

Chelsea Vane

Major: Mechanical Engineering


How did you find out that you could do research in your field in the summer?
I applied to several internships for the summer and I was offered one (internship) position at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

How did you know that research at NIST was what you wanted to do?
I had no idea what I wanted to do, but the internship at NIST helped me narrow my career options.

Did you apply to other places?
I applied to other places, such as Washington Water and Sanitary Commission in Gaithersburg, Lockheed Martin, and more.

Was the application difficult to do? Did you have help with this?
The application was not hard and a lot of help was given in editing the personal statement.

What was your summer research project?
My summer research project was applying machine learning techniques to manufacturing. Machine learning, in this case, is where data is inputted into a program and the program then learns the patterns and structure of the data. After that, predictions of new data are generated. In my project, I studied the efficiency between the theoretical and predicted, or machine-learned, data.

Who was your mentor for this project?
Dr. Sudarsan Rachuri, an Industrial Engineer in the Life Cycle Engineering Group at NIST.

How much time do you put into this work?
Eight hours a day, five days a week for 11 weeks.

Were you paid? Where did you live?
The internship provided a stipend and housing in a hotel about ten to fifteen minutes from NIST. I recommend staying at the hotel for future interns because students from all over the country come and it is a great learning experience as well.

What academic background did you have before you started?
My academic background included just the prerequisite engineering classes at UMBC.

How did you learn what you needed to know for this project?
For this project, I had to do a lot of background research in the beginning stage of the internship.

What was the hardest part about your research?
The hardest part was not having much direction. When my mentor asked for something to be done, I had to figure things out on my own before coming back to collaborate with him.

What was the most unexpected thing?
Throughout the internship, my mentor made many changes to my project, including switching the topic completely in the middle of the summer. That was very unexpected and slightly stressful, but it was a challenge I had to take on.

How does this research relate to your course work at UMBC?
This research does not relate to my course work at UMBC, but it was a good experience at a professional company.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?
Be open to any opportunities, changes, and more because research can be very flexible.

Do you now live on campus or commute to UMBC?
I lived on campus my freshman year, but I will be commuting for the upcoming fall.

11/25/2014