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Rensselaer Research Review Spring 2007 * Feature Articles Awards & Grants Recent Patents Accolades
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* Brian Surjanhata
Brian Surjanhata, Class of ’10
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Brian Surjanhata
Sophomore
Major: Biomedical Engineering

When he was in high school, Brian Surjanhata spent two summers interning as a research assistant at a medical school. It was always his plan to do research as a college undergrad, once he got there.

“I knew what research entailed,” he said. “I knew that at RPI, I’d have a little bit more freedom and would really be taking charge of my own project, while, at the same time, helping the professor out in some aspect of his work.”

Now a sophomore majoring in Biomedical Engineering, Surjanhata is working with a team of students to create nanodrums. These nanodrums are quite delicate to make, and involve gently transferring gold nanoparticles to the surface of a water droplet. After mastering this fabrication method, the students plan to play a nanodrum and use it as a membrane filter for biological molecules.

When asked what drew him into this research, Surjanhata replied, “He (Sang-Kee Eah, Assistant Professor of Physics) was my Physics 1 professor freshman year and often talked about his research. The subject he was working on is relatively new and something I had never encountered.”

So Surjanhata talked to Eah and started working in his lab. And has gotten a lot out of it.

“What I found interesting about research is how people are able to figure out methods to study something. Especially with this material, the work that Dr. Eah was doing was at the nanoscale, and how he ever figured out how to study it is still a mystery to me. It takes a lot of knowledge to do research.”

“I guess this research is making me think more analytical and abstractly,” he continues. “The research presents a problem with forming a thin layer of nanoparticles, but this is easier said than done. So every time I’m in the lab, I have to keep thinking about how to solve this problem.”

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* Ian Jacobi
Ian Jacobi, Class of ’08
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Ian Jacobi
Senior
Majors: Computer Science and Physics

Ian Jacobi works on two different research projects. One involves semantic web technologies, and the other is astronomy education research. In both cases, his involvement was led by a strong interest in the topics, a desire to further his education, and to position himself well for graduate studies.

Jacobi describes two very different research environments. His astronomy education research, he says, is a bit different from what people normally think of research.

“It’s not so much doing lots of experiments and setting up precise tests and analyzing results, but rather, since it’s a much longer research project that needs several months for a single experiment, it's more about making sure the experiment succeeds with my help,” he said. “On the other hand, there has been a little bit of results analysis and probably a bit more before it's all over, so there is some ‘traditional’ lab work to be done there.”

Jacobi says his semantic web project is drastically different from what you would expect research to be, especially since it’s in computer science, which has rather interesting research methods as a whole.

“A lot of my work has been helping out with coding for the ‘experiments’ and actually being in the thick of helping out with brainstorming and experimentation.  It's quite a lot of fun, and it's really energized me to keep thinking and playing around with other potential avenues of research in my head,” he said.

Unsurprisingly, Jacobi gains different assets from each type of research.

“My work with Heidi (Newberg, Associate Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy) has really helped me to understand the learning process in so far as it applies to undergraduate education, and it’s also given me a healthy respect for professors and teachers who write their own materials.”

His semantic web research, he continues, “Really helped me work as a partner in a small team, as I’ve regularly met with my graduate partner and helped to divide up work and tasks hopefully rather evenly between us. In one instance in particular, I recall helping my partner on tracking a rather nasty bug, which really illustrated the power of having multiple minds and eyes working on a single project.”

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