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Tuskegee engineering major among participants in new HBCU-focused summer research academy at Missouri S&T

Tuskegee University’s Langston Hines, a junior studying electrical engineering, was one of six undergraduate students who spent two months this summer conducting research at Missouri University of Science and Technology. This new partnership between Missouri S&T and Tuskegee is designed to encourage underrepresented engineering students like Hines to consider pursuing graduate studies — and is leading to other collaborative opportunities between the faculty of the two universities.

The Mableton, Georgia, native joined five other students from Tennessee State University for Missouri S&T’s Summer Engineering Research Academy (SERA). The program, which ran from May 28 through July 27, was sponsored by Missouri S&T’s College of Engineering and Computing.

Hines conducted research in the field of automation — designing and programming systems and processes to run on their own, without the need of human interference once started. He worked under the direction of Missouri S&T’s Dr. Jagannathan Sarangapani, the William A. Rutledge-Emerson Electric Co. Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Dr. Marciej Zawodniok, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

“My research as part of the academy focused on controller design. The subject matter is part of the linear controls system course — a course I’m not scheduled to take until my senior year, but for which I now feel very prepared,” Hines explained. “In addition, controllers are used in many manufacturing environments to automate processes. I will be participating in a manufacturing co-op this fall at ExxonMobil, so my summer research will hopefully have prepared me well for this upcoming opportunity.”

Dr. Kelley R. Wilkerson, assistant teaching professor of materials science and engineering at Missouri S&T, is the program director.

“Each of the students worked with an S&T research group based on their expressed interest areas of metallurgical engineering, automation or advanced manufacturing,” Wilkerson said. “Each student spent about 30 hours a week on their research project, and spent their remaining time exploring the university, touring labs, attending personal development workshops and participating in social activities.”

Hines said gaining valuable research experience wasn’t the only benefit of participating in the summer program, but the interactions the academy fostered between his peers and participating faculty.

“Working with the students from other universities helped me realize that we all share common experiences — whether that’s because of similar engineering coursework or just everyday college life and its struggles,” he recalled. “But our differences also made the research experience very special. Our differences allowed us to all bring new perspectives to solving problems and develop more innovative solutions.”

“This was a new program, and it was a tremendous success,” said Dr. John Myers, associate dean and a professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering at Missouri S&T. “We wanted to introduce more undergraduate students from underrepresented groups to the exciting research going on here at Missouri S&T, in hopes of generating interest in going on to graduate school after they finish their bachelor’s degrees. We plan to continue to offer this program in the future.”

Myers credits much of the program’s success to the involvement and support of the Missouri S&T faculty research mentors and their research teams, along with the engineering deans at Tennessee State University and Tuskegee University — both historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The deans are Dr. S. Keith Hargrove of Tennessee State, who earned a master’s of science degree in engineering management from Missouri S&T in 1987, and Dr. Heshmat Aglan of Tuskegee.

Aglan noted that the Summer Engineering Research Academy is the first of many elements of a year-round partnership in the works between the two schools.

“There is a great deal of opportunity for our two universities to partner through both our academic and research efforts,” Tuskegee’s engineering dean noted. “These include additional student research exchanges, as well as joint research projects, shared research facilities, and course collaborations where our faculty may share teaching duties and students of both institutions could enroll.”

Dr. Richard Wlezien, dean of Missouri S&T’s College of Engineering and Computing, concurred.

“When a unique opportunity like this partnership presents itself, it is up to us to make the most of it,” Wlezien explained. “Our two universities have much in common, yet we can also learn much from each other. As partners, we can move forward toward even greater achievements. I am very excited about continuing to grow our interaction and in particular to work with my colleague, Dr. [Heshmat] Aglan.”

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