Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering

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Undergraduate Student Research


Engineering students at the University of San Diego are an adventurous bunch. They’re helping to pioneer innovative technologies while riding new waves of science. Interested engineering student should consult their engineering professors and see what areas of research they can explore with a faculty mentor. For some stories of research success, you can see the latest issue of USD Engineer where Liz Harman’s article “On the Cutting Edge: Student Research Yield Impressive Results” profiles two student researchers. Click here for story.

Program Opportunities
Students do not have to participate in a formal program to have an undergraduate research experience. They can arrange informal experiences with faculty mentors and they may be able to do an independent study where they receive credit if they have a suitable project with the right faculty member. Although formal programs are not required, they often offer high quality experiences that support the student’s development as a researcher. Here are some examples of programs intended to support undergraduate students’ research experiences that USD Engineering students take part in:


The SURE program provides a summer stipend and supplies funds to a USD undergraduate student to do research with a USD faculty member. There is a competitive proposal process that can award students either 10 week project support of $3500 or 5 week project support of $1750. Students apply for a SURE grant by preparing a short research proposal in collaboration with their proposed faculty mentor. Proposals are submitted online, and are typically due by the 2nd Friday in February.

McNair Scholarship -

This program at USD mentors twenty-five 1st generation, low-income students in a variety of majors including Engineering through their undergraduate years and into graduate school, expecting that they will consider careers as professors. It includes a summer research mentoring program at USD, loan of a laptop computer, field trips and travel to graduate school sites.

Research Experiences for Undergraduates -

The National Science Foundation funds a large number of research opportunities for undergraduate students through its REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) Sites program. An REU Site consists of a group of ten or so undergraduates who work in the research programs of the host institution. Each student is associated with a specific research project, where he/she works closely with the faculty and other researchers. Students are granted stipends and, in many cases, assistance with housing and travel. Opportunities exist at major universities across the country and have individual application deadlines and requirements. Check out the link to find the right program for your interests. Click here.

Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program -

This ten-week paid research internship program provides opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in research, under the guidance of an appropriate research mentor, at a participating Navy laboratory, including San Diego’s SPAWAR Systems Center in Point Loma. Apply early -- the application period for the following summer closes in the prior December

NASA Undergraduate Student Research Program –

This program offers undergraduates across the United States mentored internship experiences at NASA Centers and research support facilities. It is one of most highly comprehensive internship programs for undergraduate students. Students work on practical problems with real applications in aerospace or on future NASA missions. These immersive NASA opportunities combine scientific research with professional hands-on engineering. USRP internship opportunities are offered year round in the Fall, Summer and Spring, with summer deadlines typically in January.

Publications and Presentations

Creative Collaborations –

Creative Collaborations is held each April to celebrate the intellectual life at USD and provides all undergraduate students an opportunity to present their preliminary and completed research and creative projects in an environment with other students and faculty. All students with undergraduate research projects are encouraged to present and be recognized at this event. The submission deadline is approximately February 1 each year. Each year, several engineering students present their work at this event. Check the Creative Collaborations website for programs to see past abstracts.

Publication of research findings is an important aspect of research. Publications with undergraduate students as co-authors that have been published recently include these journal articles and conference proceedings:

Refereed Journal Articles

Leake, S., Jacobitz, F., Malicky, D., McGarry, M. (2011). A Wind Tunnel as a Senior/Capstone Design Project: Laboratory Enhancement and Assessment of Student Learning. To appear in International Journal of Mechanical Engineering Education, 21.

Ngo, T. T., Keegan, J. E., George (SPAWAR), R. D. (2011). Processing Behaviors of Thin-Film Pentacene and Benzene-1,4-Diboronic Acid in Supercritical Carbon Dioxide. Thin Solid Films, 520(3), 1022-1026.

Ngo, T. T., Hall, J., A., Kohl, J., Perry, L. (2011). Green Surfboards: Investigation of Product Biodegradability at End of Life. To appear in Sports Technology.

McGarry, M., Bonilla, C., Metzger, I. (2010). Conjugate Heat Transfer Using Liquid Metals and Alloys for Enclosures with Solid Conducting Blocks. Journal of Thermal Science and Engineering Applications, 2(1), 011004-1 - 011004-6.

Enriquez, A., Skaar, J., Viirre, E., Chase, B. (2009). Brief Report: Effects of Caffeine on Postural Stability. International Tinnitus Journal, 15(2), 161-163.

Kohl, J., Burke, A. J., Landas, E. L.L., Jacobitz, F. (2007). The Release Behavior of Silicone Coatings with a Thickness Gradient. Progress in Organic Coatings/Elsevier, 59(4), 278-283.

Conference Proceedings

Ngo, T. T., Lambert, C., Kohl, J.G. (2012). Characterization of Mechanical Properties and Compostability of Fiber-Reinforced Bio-Composites. Orlando, Florida: IIE 62nd Annual Conference Proceedings, Institute of Industrial Engineers.

Ngo, T. T., Keegan, J. E., George (SPAWAR), R. D. (2011). Solubility of Benzene-1,4-Diboronic Acid and Pentacene in Supercritical Carbon Dioxide (pp. Abstract P109 p. 203). Dijon: 11th International Conference on Carbon Dioxide Utilization.

Ellis, J., Kramer, K., Stubberud, S. C. (2011). Image Correlation Based Video Tracking. Las Vegas, NV: Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Systems Engineering.

Ellis, J., Kramer, K. (2011). Image Correlation Based Video Tracking (pp. 60-66, Colorado Springs, CO: 2011 National Security Innovation Competition Proceedings/ National Homeland Defense Foundation.

Jacobitz, F., Abraham, B., Bentz, J., Doruth, L., Foster, M., Gabbard, M., Jarosinski, M., Jones, A., Omar, Y., Reed, B., Thomas, A., Vargas, V., Weiss, C. (2010). A Flow Visualization Project in Fluid Mechanics (1st ed., vol. 29, pp. 98). Ashland Oregon: Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science - Pacific Division.

Ngo, T. T., Hall, J. A. (2010). Assessing Product Biodegradability at End of Life (pp. Abstract p. IERC 399). Cancun, Mexico: IIE 60th Annual Conference Proceedings, Institute of Industrial Engineers.

Jacobitz, F., Anderson, S., Babila, E., Gabbard, M., Weiss, C. (2009). A Comparison of the Microcirculation in Rat Spinotrapezius Muscle and Muscle Fascia (pp. 6 pages). Marseille: Proceedings of the 19th Congrès Français de Mécanique.

Lyons, A., Gerry, A., Vanderstiggel, F., Stubberud, S. C., Kramer, K. (2009). Control of Inverted Pendulum System Using a Neural Extended Kalman Filter (pp. 210-215). Wellington: Proc. of 4th International Conference on Autonomous Robots and Agents.

Jacobitz, F., Weiss, C., Gabbard, M. (2009). Simulations of the Microcirculation in Rat Spinotrapezius Muscle and Muscle Fascia . San Francisco, California: American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Jacobitz, F., Anderson, S. (2008). An Improved Comprehensive Model for the Apparent Viscosity of Blood . San Antonio, Texas: Bulletin of the American Physical Society.

Jacobitz, F., Weiss, C., Gabbard, M. (2008). Simulations of the Microcirculation in Rat Spinotrapezius Muscle and Muscle Fascia . San Francisco, California: American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Jacobitz, F., Porterfield, C. A., Engebrecht, C. P., Metzger, I. D. (2007). Development of a Comprehensive Model of the Apparent Viscosity of Blood for Simulations of the Microcirculation in Rat Spinotrapezius Muscle Fascia . Salt Lake City, Utah: Bulletin of the American Physical Society.

Jacobitz, F., Engebrecht, C. P., Metzger, I. D., Porterfield, C. A. (2007). Simulation of the Microcirculation in Rat Spinotrapezius Muscle Fascia (1- 2). ASME: Proceedings of the 2007 Summer Bioengineering Conference.

Finding a USD Faculty Research Mentor

If you are searching for an engineering faculty member to do research with, you can consult this annual publication to explore the individual research interests of faculty. [Faculty Research profiles]

Researching Graduates – PhD Student Stories

Undergraduate research experiences are one of the best ways of preparing for graduate study. USD Engineering has only undergraduate programs in engineering, but we are very proud of the research accomplishments that several of our alumni have achieved at the PhD level.

Ricardo Valerdi (class of 2000) has research that focuses on systems engineering metrics, cost estimation, test & evaluation, human systems integration, enterprise transformation, and performance measurement. He recently transition¬ed from being research faculty in the Engineering Systems Division at MIT to the University of Arizo¬na, where he is a tenured associate professor. Valerdi completed his PhD in industrial & systems engineering from the University of Southern California in 2005.

Ian Nauhaus (class of 2002) is a postdoctoral neuroscientist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., where he does research on visual neurophysiology. He has been there since he completed his PhD in bio¬medical engineering at University of California, Los Angeles in 2008.

Soren Solari (class of 2000) is the founder of an early stage stealth mode startup focused on applications related to accurately replicating human brain function to mimic and deliver human-like capabilities in computer systems. In 2009, Solari completed his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at the University of California, San Diego. He has also been a lecturer for USD Engineering.

Andrew Putnam (class of 2003) is a senior researcher in Microsoft’s computer architecture group where he conducts fundamental research in computer architecture and hardware/software interaction. In 2011, Putnam graduated with his PhD in computer engineering from the University of Washington where his work focused on dataflow architectures.