Undergraduates Explore Synchrotron Light at SRC as Part of 2005 Summer Research Program
John Morgan, SRC Science Writer
In 1986, moviegoers were treated to one of the first glimpses of what life might be like with robots. The movie was Short Circuit and it enjoys cult status by those enamored with robot, Johnny Number 5, who was co-starred alongside Alley Sheedy and Steve Guttenberg, Johnny's developer.
Included in the list of fans is Marcus Medley, a freshman from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who is majoring in computer engineering and someday hopes to work for NASA in robotics engineering. Medley took a major step towards his goal this summer as a participant in SRC's Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, which welcomes a handful of outstanding undergraduates from around the country (and, this year, Puerto Rico too) to SRC. The students are paired up with a researcher who serves as their mentor and with whom they develop a research problem that they work on for nine weeks. The program culminated on August 5 th with a seminar presentation of their work and submission of a research paper.
"It's going to help me do what I want to do," says Medley, referring to robotics. "I'll be able to say I've done research."
And this is an important part of the program, says its coordinator, Chris Moore, Educational Outreach Director of SRC.
"They learn the joys and frustrations of being a scientist, from the rewards of working hard to get good data to fixing equipment problems. They also learn to interact with each other, forming a community of peers," explains Moore.
Indeed, while movies may help science look cool, what the audience may not see about science is the tedium and trial and error that comes with the job and how being passionate about a research area helps take the challenges in stride.
Medley worked with SRC Director, Joe Bisognano, studying the future of light sources, energy recovery linac (ERL) systems. Medley laments that he enjoyed the project because of its future applications. This parallels his own desire for his future in science to be more applied than theoretical, something that he can now articulate better since his experience as an SRC-REU participant.
"Mine might get built!" Medley says excitedly when referring to his desire to study robotics and to design something that will have a tangible impact on society.
Moore notes that this type of forward-looking and career-informing response is the beauty of the program and is indicative of its success.
"Although they are only here for a short time, students leave with a real sense of what science research is all about allowing them to make their career decisions with confidence," he concludes.