Showcasing, Celebrating the Importance of Research

Established in 2015, the University of San Diego’s Research Week has quickly become one of the campus’ most prominent events. Spread over an entire week in April, Research Week is filled with receptions, presentations and hands-on activities, all with a single aim: to showcase the exciting research that is happening on campus.

Since 2004, USD’s research funding has more than doubled from external grants applied for by faculty and staff through the Office of Sponsored Programs with the help of on-campus organizations such as Foundation Relations, the Office of Undergraduate Research and each of USD’s individual schools. As a result of the funding applied for and received by faculty and staff, Research Week offers a chance for students and faculty to not only celebrate their academic success, but also share it with the community.

From an event which combines mathematics and oversized origami paper (aptly named Mathigami) taking place in a green patch of grass on campus to the 27th annual Creative Collaborations, where presentations are done by undergraduate students who create posters and share research they’ve done in collaboration with faculty, to the campus community, there is no shortage of activity during the 2017 edition of Research Week, April 18-21.

But the innovative work displayed during Research Week doesn’t stop when the week ends. In fact, for Susan Lord, PhD and chair of the new General Engineering program in the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, research is an integral part of her everyday life on campus.

With a passion for increasing diversity in engineering, Lord has been the recipient of multiple National Science Foundation grants and is currently working on research projects with colleagues at USD and around the country. One of her current projects is focused on the intersection of veterans and engineering.

“I have a National Science Foundation grant for looking at why those who have been military veterans choose to do undergraduate degrees in engineering,” she said. “There is a large need for students, particularly American citizens, to become engineers because we have a lot of need for that, but, often, veterans don’t see where the connection is between what they’ve done before and engineering and so very little work has been done in actually studying what their experiences are like.”

Working with a group of researchers on the project, Susan is the only engineer on the team. Her team members include Michelle Camacho from USD’s sociology department and professors from Purdue, North Carolina State and Clemson. They are all working to answer one question: how can America increase the number of veterans interested in engineering?

“All of these veterans are coming [back] and the United States is making this huge investment in them going back into school to get a higher education degree. The National Science Foundation is interested in this because we have a need for people to go into fields like engineering and we have all these people who have served our country and are trying to figure out what their next mission is. Can we help to connect these dots?”

But Lord’s NSF research grant to help veterans isn’t the only grant she’s received this year. Another NSF-funded project is called, “Revolutionizing Engineering Departments” and USD is the only private university to receive the grant. In fact, part of the reason USD was selected as a recipient is because of the diversity research Lord has already been doing. The National Science Foundation is focused on addressing some of the systematic problems within engineering and USD has been thrilled to join the efforts.

“[At USD], we think it’s really important to have that really well-rounded education. But now as part of the RED grant, we are hoping to bring this context of humanitarianism, social justice and sustainability into our engineering classroom,” Lord said. “We are, for example, doing some classes now where we have a faculty member from engineering and a faculty member from the School of Peace teaching together and bringing their students together and talking about drones. But from the standpoint of not only how would you design a drone but how would you decide how it would be used and how would it be designed so it could be most effective at delivering its mission. This larger context is what we hope to provide for all General Engineering students.”

— Taylor Milam


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