Research opportunities for undergraduates have blossomed at Rutgers, informally and through programs such as the Aresty Research Center at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. The School of Engineering, a participant in the Aresty Center, supports several of its own undergraduate research programs, matching students with faculty mentors to develop the skills for becoming successful researchers.
Although many students are pursuing research, several have gone a step beyond and published their research findings in academic journals as coauthors alongside their faculty and graduate student mentors. A taste for the research process can be acquired during a semester or a summer session, but the students pursuing publication of their work have worked for at least two terms, often more, in their professors’ labs. In gaining the respect of their mentors, they have defined a problem, investigated solutions, and communicated their findings to peers in their academic and professional fields.
Having published work is advantageous. It bolsters a resume and indicates to graduate admissions committees and corporate interviewers that students have the discipline and knowledge for immediate success. The article submission and peer review process also provides students with the kind of feedback unavailable through a test score or course grade.
MEET DARYLL MUNOZ
If it’s becoming more commonplace for undergraduates to publish journal articles about their research, Daryll Munoz still breathes rare air. Munoz, who recently graduated with a degree in chemical and biochemical engineering, already has his name on two papers in prestigious chemistry journals, based on work he began as a rising sophomore enrolled in the Aresty Summer Science Program.
Munoz’s mentor, assistant professor Fuat Celik, credits his student’s achievement to a combination of developing his skills during two-and-a-half years in the lab and receiving additional guidance from graduate student Ashley Pennington. He also got some good breaks.
“Uniquely for him, he ended up working on two projects that wrapped up while he was a student; on both, his contributions were significant enough to rate co-authorship,” Celik says.
Munoz’s research centered on investigating catalysts for producing hydrogen gas to use as an emissions-free source of energy for vehicles. “The fact that Dr. Celik and Ashley thought my work was so robust that I could be part of the publication was awesome,” Munoz says. “Not many of my friends who are doing research get the same opportunity to be recognized for the work they did.”
The first project was published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Physical Chemistry C and the second in Elsevier’s International Journal of Hydrogen Energy.
Celik had conducted doctoral work at the University of California, Berkeley, where he mentored six undergraduates. “I gained an appreciation for how much an undergraduate student who is motivated can contribute to a research project,” he says. “That’s the experience I wanted to recreate in my lab at Rutgers.”
When students graduate, publication experience helps them stand out. “Being a coauthor indicates that they have the ability to multitask,” he says. “Most people who are hiring know how difficult it is to publish a paper. If students have managed that as undergraduates, it’s a real plus for their applications.”