Santa Clara University

80_horizons_in_engineering

A Celebration of Generosity

Jack Kuehler, pictured with Christina Estonilo, engages the students in discussion.
Jack Kuehler, pictured with Christina Estonilo, engages the students in discussion.

In October, a select group of researchers gathered to thank their benefactors at a special presentation of the work conducted over the summer. These undergraduate students were among the first recipients of grants from the $1 million Carmen A. and Jack D. Kuehler Undergraduate Engineering Research Fund.

A serendipitous conversation among two engineering faculty members and Kuehler at the Santa Clara University President’s Club Dinner in 2004 led to the generous donation. Talk centered on the Summer Research Group (SRG), a fledgling program designed by computer engineering faculty members to involve undergraduate students in meaningful research as a means of sparking their interest in pursuing doctorate study. The SRG was proving quite successful, but funding was unreliable. As Professor Silvia Figueira said, “Every year the project was up in the air because we didn’t know if we would receive funding, and we wanted to make sure it would always happen.”

Co-creators Silvia Figueira and Darren Atkinson investigated applying for a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) grant, which would be used to bring students from other institutions to SCU, but the funding criteria were not exactly what the faculty had in mind. Figueira notes: “REU is a great program, but we wanted to invest in our own students here at SCU, applying the material they’re learning in class and continuing the experience beyond the scope of the program.” The Kuehlers saw the merit in such an endeavor, and soon the program was off and running.

No longer devoted solely to computer engineering, the program now spans all engineering disciplines, and the students have found the experience to be extremely rewarding. Anirudha Jadhav, a participant from the summer of 2005, attributed his success in landing an internship with Philips Semiconductor to the experience he garnered through this program. He reports his employers were “very impressed with [his] ability to take up such an interesting and challenging project and produce results,” and he expressed his gratitude for having been given the opportunity to apply his engineering skills to a research project.