Unraveling the mysteries

Friday, August 4, 2023

Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,

Happy Friday!

I was almost done with this week’s message when came the news that on Feb. 1, 2024, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch a satellite into orbit that our undergraduate students in aerospace engineering and other disciplines designed and built. I decided to compose this message instead. Imagine being 20, in college and having a satellite that you and your team built with your own hands launched into space.

I paused and reflected on my own undergraduate engineering design experience at LSU, and well, there is rocket years’ difference. We designed and built gearboxes, powertrains, concrete canoes and rooftop water heaters. Great experiences, nonetheless, but certainly not space-age experiential learning where you get one and only one chance to see your design work.

Clearly, research leads to new discoveries, new inventions and ways to improve our lives, AND the most successful researchers started early. Interestingly, many Nobel laureates received their awards in their 50s for the research they conducted decades earlier. Some laureates, including Guglielmo Marconi and Marie Curie, were awarded the Nobel Prize in their 30s. Lawrence Bragg received his when he was 25. So, starting early and moving from theory to practical applications is your ticket.

Here at S&T, our undergraduate students start their award-winning research in their freshman or sophomore years. “Many undergraduate students who have worked on my NSF project are still a part of our team now that they are pursuing their doctoral degrees,” says Dr. Garry “Smitty” Grubbs II, associate professor of chemistry. “My philosophy is that students can contribute in multiple ways as I highlighted at a recent international conference and in an issue of the Journal of Molecular Spectroscopy with the same focus.”

Our OURE (Opportunity for Undergraduate Research Experiences) program teams up students with faculty advisors. Albeit rigorous, in this exciting program, our undergraduates gain a foundational understanding of how research is conducted, learn the fundamentals of experimental design, interpret research outcomes, and transfer data into information, and information into knowledge. They then sharpen their engineering, science and social sciences presentation skills at our Annual Undergraduate Research Conference. In addition, they participate in our Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol, where they inform Missouri lawmakers about research conducted here at S&T.

For our humanities and science majors, the College of Arts, Sciences, and Education pairs faculty mentors with first-year students in its First Year Research Experience (FYRE). Outcomes of FYRE collaborations include awards such as a National Science Foundation grant for a microwave spectrometer.

Similarly, the College of Engineering and Computing offers a Dean’s Undergraduate Research Scholars program for students interested in conducting research.

Another popular opportunity is research, entrepreneurship, design and build, social responsibility, and leadership enabled by the Kummer Vanguard Scholars Program (KVS). KVS provides scholarships to up to 400 undergraduate STEM students each year, renewable for up to four years.

I see it every day and with every research team consisting of undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff who tap the hidden wealth and the collective genius of this place. To our students I say get in and become a part of the amalgam of skills, knowledge, abilities and experiences of our research teams who work to “unravel the mysteries and solve the problems which nature lays before us,” in the words of one of our earliest graduates, L.R. Grabill. You, too, like many before you, can discover new frontiers, help address new challenges and, along the way, benefit handsomely.



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Mohammad Dehghani, PhD
mo@mst.edu | 573-341-4116

206 Parker Hall, 300 West 13th Street, Rolla, MO 65409-0910