A Summer of Innovation

2010 SUNFEST & Rachleff Scholars Symposium

2010 SUNFEST & Rachleff Scholars SymposiumIn the first-annual combined SUNFEST & Rachleff Scholars Symposium, 21 undergraduate engineering students from Penn and institutions across the U.S. demonstrated an impressive array of findings produced in a single summer of research. The event, coordinated by Jan Van der Spiegel, professor of Electrical and Systems Engineering and director of both programs, combined presentations from Penn Engineering's first group of summer Rachleff Scholar researchers with talks from the 24th group of SUNFEST scholars to be hosted by Penn.

The Rachleff Scholars Program, made possible by a gift in 2008 from Debra and Andrew Rachleff (W'80), offers Penn Engineering undergraduates the opportunity to gain valuable research experiences with standing faculty and to participate in a community of peers who share a common interest in research and scholarly inquiry.  Students in the program participate in a 10- to 12-week summer research experience conducted under the supervision and mentorship of standing Penn faculty.

SUNFEST is a long-established, unique program that provides talented undergraduate students with hands-on research during the summer in the area of sensor technologies. Each year an average of 10 students, ending their sophomore or junior year of college, are selected from various universities nationwide. The purpose of this program is to expose the students to real, in-depth research in the area of sensor technology and to motivate them to go on to graduate school. At Penn, this program is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Penn Center for Sensor Technologies.

To pair students with faculty and projects, Van der Spiegel engages in some research "matchmaking," collecting project ideas from faculty participating in the program and then offering them to the students slated to conduct their research that summer. While students are carrying out their projects, they live on campus and are given stipends for the summer.

Rachleff and SUNFEST projects for 2010 spanned several engineering research disciplines, from bioengineering to robotics and from nanotechnology to embedded systems. Seventeen faculty members from Penn Engineering, Penn Medicine and the School of Arts and Sciences mentored the 20 student projects.  At the symposium, awards were presented for the top presentations in each program.

Rachleff Scholars Award Recipients

Kevin ConleyFirst Place for the Rachleff Scholars presentations was awarded to Kevin Conley, a whose project "AutoPlug: Open Automotive Architecture for Plug-n-play Services," was conducted under the supervision of Rahul Mangharam, Stephen J. Angello Term Assistant Professor in the departments of Electrical and Systems Engineering and Computer and Information Science. Conley, a student in Electrical and Systems Engineering, showed that current technology in automobiles is ‘frozen' and that electronics that are often obsolete by the time a vehicle is in full production. To address these concerns, vehicles are to become more programmable, remotely upgradeable and, by design, evolve over the lifetime of the vehicle. His project demonstrates the use of architecture that is component-based and consists of a hardware-based interface to monitor and control the vehicle's internal computer. It also features a network software-based interface to allow for plug-n-play module integration during the lifetime of the vehicle.

Michelle CalabresFirst Honorable Mention was awarded to Michelle Calabrese for the presentation of her project, "Neurospecific Serum Biomarkers Correlate with Brain Injury Severity," conducted in the laboratory of Susan Margulies, George H. Stephenson Term Chair in Bioengineering and Professor of Bioengineering. Calabrese is studying Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and for this project she utilized a three-component biomarker panel to determine the ability to use biomarkers to differentiate between injured brain tissue and healthy brain tissue.

Paul GurniakSecond Honorable Mention was received by Paul Gurniak, a student in Electrical and Systems Engineering, for his project, "Perfectly Rounded Floating Point Accumulation." Supervised by André DeHon, associate professor in the departments of Electrical and Systems Engineering and Computer and Information Science, this research involved a design for the use of a balanced reduce tree to achieve a "perfectly rounded" answer using conservative adders that preserve both the sum and error of a floating point addition.


SUNFEST Program Award Recipients

Brian HelferFirst Place for the SUNFEST program presentations was awarded to Brian Helfer, an electrical engineering major at the University of Connecticut, for his project, "Characterization and Design of Organic Field-Effect Transistor Circuits for Sensing Bioelectromagnetism."  Studying under Cherie Kagan, associate professor in the departments of Electrical and Systems Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering, Helfer worked to improve upon current sensor technologies by using organic field-effect transistors. The goal of the research is to develop a technology that can map high-density signals of the brain and heart.

Logan Osgood-JacobsFirst Honorable Mention was awarded to Logan Osgood-Jacobs, an engineering major at Swarthmore College interested in biomedical engineering, for her project, "Pediatric Physical Activity Dynamometer." Conducted under the supervision of Jay N. Zemel, Professor Emeritus in the department of Electrical and Systems Engineering, the project focused on an in-shoe physical activity dynamometer (called FootPAD) used to directly measure forces felt through children's feet. Osgood-Jacobs' work involved the implementation of a new type of sensor, the piezoresistance sensor.   After implementation, she was able to show that the new sensors function better than prior versions that utilized piezoelectric sensors, which suffered from data fluctuation due temperature changes.

Nathalia GarciaSecond Honorable Mention was received by Nathalia Garcia, an electrical engineering major at Temple University. Garcia worked under the supervision of Charlie Johnson, professor in the department of Physics and Astronomy, on her project, "Nano-Electronic Sensor for Detection of Prostate Cancer Biomarkers." In her research, Garcia implemented a new method for early cancer detection that seeks to improve on current methods, which require invasiveness and/or high concentrations of biomarkers.  Utilizing single-walled carbon nanotubes as nano electronic sensors, Garcia was able to demonstrate that  a highly specific and highly sensitive nano sensor can be fabricated on a much smaller scale than is used by current methods, and that they can effectively detect biomarkers, leading to earlier and more accurate cancer detection.

Interested? Learn more!

Rachleff Scholars Program
2010 Sunfest Reports and Slides
Jan Van der Spiegel's Faculty Profile

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