Eric Rogers, a junior civil engineering major at West Virginia University, was nervous standing next to his poster in Rupp Arena at the University of Kentucky the morning of April 3.
Notecards in hand, Rogers was about to present the culmination of nine months of research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, a congregation of the best undergraduate researchers in the country.
Under the guidance of Fei Dai, assistant professor of civil engineering in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, Rogers researched solutions to more effectively identify and analyze structural deflection of bridges in a more cost-effective way. He was interested in a method called photogrammetry, a process of taking pictures of a structure from different angles and matching them to create a 3-D image.
“It was wonderful, absolutely wonderful,” said Rogers. “I was talking about it and immediately got excited about it. Whenever you get to share nine months of hard and innovative work, you see how cool it really is. I can’t believe what I accomplished.”
Rogers was one of about 4,000 undergraduate students chosen from all fields to present their research at the Conference. More than just a presentation, students were able to view other research projects and attend keynote speeches, a graduate school fair and dinners while at the conference.
Through the process of researching and sharing his findings, Rogers learned a host of new skills. He found a great need for confidence and creativity in his profession, and the ability to communicate with those both in and out of his field. It also showed him how much he truly enjoys what he studies, and would highly encourage other students to work on a research project as an undergrad and share their findings at conferences.
“Instead of merely doing research and producing results, a better way to get a student inspired is to get them to present research to the public,” said Dai. “By doing so, the student will get feedback from other people about what great research they are doing.”
Rogers hopes to use his undergraduate research to springboard him to a master’s, and possibly doctoral, degree in structural engineering.