Undergrads Pioneer Innovative Research at AUC, Abroad

Ramy El Adli ’14, a mechanical engineering major who graduated this spring, spent the last two summers of his undergraduate years at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology conducting research in astrophysics and oxy-fuel combustion. He has conducted research at AUC, focusing on future energy needs. Under the guidance of Mohamed El Morsi, associate professor of mechanical engineering, El Adli worked with his peers on a solar dish collector that concentrates the energy of the sun to generate electricity.

“Our research on the solar dish collector was carried out using a lot of simulations with specialized software, in addition to experimental methods on a prototype,” explained El Adli. “We found that by using a medium-size, 2.8 meter-solar dish collector, which is similar to the normal satellite dish present on the rooftops of many buildings, people can operate the air conditioning for their whole apartment or villa. Solar energy is the future of energy in Egypt and the world, since fossil fuels are going to be depleted soon, so it’s imperative that we fully examine the long-term, practical solutions available to us.”

El Adli was able to conduct his research at top universities abroad due to the support and funding he received from the Undergraduate Research Program at AUC, which was launched in 2012 to expand undergraduate scholarship on campus through the promotion of original research and creative work. The program has successfully highlighted the talents of many undergraduate students at the University like El Adli and offered support in the form of research internship grants; resource grants, which cover the material costs of a student’s research including the rental of expensive equipment and workspaces; and travel grants for students who have been accepted at a conference or competition abroad.

With the travel grant that she received from the program, Dalia Abbas ’13, who double majored in history and political science, traveled to Paris and participated in a conference hosted by the esteemed Institut du Monde Arabe. Abbas’s research focused on the representation and political participation of Egyptian women during Gamal Abdul Nasser’s presidency.

“I got to present my paper first at the EURECA [Excellence in Undergraduate Research, Entrepreneurship and Creative Achievement] conference here at AUC before going to present it in Paris, and that made a huge difference,” she explained. “It can be really intimidating to speak on a large scale in front of professors and professionals, but my experience with the EURECA conference gave me the opportunity to present my paper to faculty and students, who gave me great feedback before I traveled. I was very grateful to find out that there was a program on campus that would not only provide funding, but feedback and support for students such as myself.”

Abass described her participation in last year’s EURECA and the subsequent conference in Paris as “one of the best experiences” of her undergraduate life. “It really added to my undergraduate education and has made me proud to be an AUCian,” she said.

EURECA, which was first organized on campus in 2004, has been recently integrated into the Undergraduate Research Program. “The conference gives students a chance to showcase their best research and scholarly work, and it accepts all kinds of student work that demonstrate the learning outcomes of critical and creative thinking and inquiry skills,” explained Amani Elshimi, director of undergraduate research and senior instructor at the Department of Rhetoric and Composition.

Student work such as research papers, documentaries, photo essays, entrepreneurial projects, art and scientific innovations are all accepted by EURECA. “The beauty of the conference,” Elshimi continued, “is that students are not presenting to an audience from their technical field, so they have to customize the content of what they’re presenting to a multidisciplinary audience. This makes it a challenging, but very rewarding, exercise in sharing knowledge.”

In addition to EURECA, the Undergraduate Research Program has also recently introduced another element to its repertoire –– the Undergraduate Research Journal (URJe). Having originally started in 2005, the journal was relaunched during EURECA 2014. Published content, which is all submitted by students, will soon be available online through the public-access Open Journal Systems. “URJ is a faculty/peer-reviewed, open-access, multimedia student journal," said Elshimi. "We’re very excited about it.’ For more information on the Undergraduate Research Program,click here. Photo caption: El Adli at the Harvard College Observatory examining historical astronomical photographic plates