Undergraduate Student Research

Involving undergraduate students in research and project work with industry are key components of the engineering educational experience at St Thomas. 

We truly act on our desire to involve students in the research efforts of our faculty, 46% of our seniors report having worked on a research project with a professor outside of class while attending the University of St. Thomas.

Research adds to a students education by fostering unique faculty/student collaboration and an opportunity to truly delve into the unknown.  Most of our projects are directly funded by industry, so the student also experiences first hand the R&D needs of technical companies.   Students also benefit by gaining working knowledge of engineering specialties and receive pay for their efforts.  Many students present their work at conferences and/or submit papers for publication.

Here is a summary of some recent projects:

Project by: Lindsey Bollig ('17)

Advisor: Dr. Brittany Nelson-Cheeseman

Project title: Determining Effects of Anisotropy and Orientation on the Magnetization and Magnetic Moment of 3D Printed Samples

Project description:

Additive manufacturing (AM), commonly referred to as 3D printing, refers to the process of building a part up, layer by layer, with a material. As opposed to traditional manufacturing methods, AM allows for the manufacture of complex geometries without being limited by the abilities of tools or molds. One of the more common types of 3D printing is FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling). This process involves heating a material (most commonly a thermoplastic filament) in a nozzle and continuously extruding the molten material onto a print bed to create a layer. When one layer of the part is complete, the printer head moves a fraction of a millimeter up so a subsequent layer can be extruded and deposited. This process is repeated until each layer of the part has been extruded.

Using a simple FDM machine (3D printer), magnetic samples were prepared by extruding a composite filament comprised of a polylactic acid polymer with 40 wt.% iron. Different printer settings, such as fill factor, number of outer layers, and orientation of the inner fill, where used to create the samples. The 3D printed samples were evaluated via VSM (Vibrating Sample Magnetometer). Hysteresis loops from each sample where obtained from the VSM and were used to determine if the different printer settings had an effect on the sample’s magnetic response in a magnetic field. Although it was determined that the fill factor had the greatest and more prominent effect on the cube’s magnetic response, other settings were also found to have some effect. Determining the effects of each of the printer settings will help better understand how a magnetic component, such as a transformer, could be 3D printed using a thermoplastic 3D printer.

Project by: Christopher Cogan ('11)

Advisor: Dr. Camille George

Project by: Linda Nininahazwe (’11)

Advisor: Dr. John Wentz

Sponsored by: University of St. Thomas Collaborative Inquiry Grant.

Project by: Thomas Garske (’10), Daniel Quinn (’12)

Advisor: Dr. John Wentz

Project by: David Timm (’10).

Advisor: Dr. John Wentz. 

Project by: Robert Schulzetenberg (’10), Hans Drabek (’10), Tim Welle, David Timm.

Advisor: Dr. Camille George.

Partnership with: The Rural Economic Institute of Mali, the Malian School of Agriculture and the USDA Higher Education Challenge Grants Program 2007-02535.

Project Description: A passive evaporative cooler for preserving produce

Robert Schulzetenberg ('10), Hans Drabek ('10), Tim Welle and David Timm are designing a porous evaporative clay cooler for the preservation of fresh produce. Based on the Nigerian Zeer Pot, the students are designing flat interchangeable panels that could scale up the passive design to enable entrepreneurial farmers to preserve their produce. The design will also be tested with seed potatoes preservation. All seed potatoes in Western Africa are currently being imported from Europe. Malian farmers are very interested in growing this potentially lucrative food source but lack a cost-effective way of preserving the seed through its dormant phase.


Project by: Tom McCulloch ('10)

Advisor: Dr. Camille George. A Solar Roaster for Peanuts

Partnership with: Compatible Technologies International

Project Description: A Solar Roaster for Peanuts

Tom McCulloch ('10) has built a solar parabolic trough for the roasting of peanuts, a major source of protein in Haiti and many African nations. The first prototype roaster was successful in roasting peanuts using renewable solar energy in less than 30 minutes. The research will continue emphasizing less expensive materials and a more portable and lightweight design.


Project by: Katie McCaffrey ('09), Karen Rose ('09) and Dr. John P. Abraham: Uterus Cryosurgery,

Funded by: NSF grant, 2008-2009.

Project Description: 2008-09 Undergrad Research - Uterus Cryosurgery

Katie McCaffrey and Karen Rose are currently working on a biomedical problem with Dr. John Abraham. The problem deals with endometrial cryoablation which can be used to treat uterine fibroids (benign tumors). Currently, invasive surgery is used to eliminate fibroids however the students hope that through their research, a much less invasive treatment will soon be available. Their minimally invasive idea is to remove the fibroids by freezing rather than cutting. The project is funded by an NSF grant which was awarded to Dr. Pat Van Fleet in the St. Thomas Mathematics Department.

Both Katie and Karen are graduating in May, 2009 and they are looking forward to attending graduate school next fall.

Project by: Robert Erickson ('09)

Supervised by: Dr. Greg Mowry and Dr. John Abraham

Funded by: "Horizontal Winds."

Project Description: 2008-09 Undergraduate Research: Wind-Turbine Design Project

Robert Erickson, under the supervision of Drs. Greg Mowry and John Abraham has carried out simulations which are being used to design small wind turbines that are able to be used in small, urban environments, such as on rooftops. His work has been sponsored by Horizontal Winds. The results are currently in press with the journal Open Mechanical Engineering and will also be presented at the Clean Technology Conference and Expo this May, in Houston Texas.

Project by: William Besser ('09), Kevin Krautbauer ('08) and Dr. John P. Abraham

Sponsored by: Lockheed Martin, Summer 2008.

Project Description: 2008 Undergraduate Research: Cooling the Joint Strike Fighter

Two engineering students are working on a research project with Dr. Abraham from the School of Engineering. The problem involves cooling the Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter. The plane is often described as a "flying supercomputer", and the students have been asked to cool the computer processors without using any fans or pumps. It is a very challenging problem that involves engineers at Lockheed Martin and Sandia National Labs. William Besser (shown below) is currently a mechanical engineering student at St. Thomas. He is working together with Kevin Krautbauer (graduated 2008, currently graduate student at the University of Minnesota. Their activities are funded through a research grant from Lockheed Martin.


Project by: Fuschia-Ann Hoover ('09) and Dr. John P. Abraham

Supported by: St. Thomas McNair Scholars program, Summer 2008.

Project Description: 2008 Undergrad Research: Study of Corn and Cellulosic Ethanol for Transportation Fuels

Fushcia-Ann Hoover has recently completed a major research activity which has been supported by the St. Thomas McNair Scholars program. She has investigated the potential of using either corn-based or cellulosic-based ethanol as a replacement for petroleum fuels. Her findings are surprising and provide guidance to policy makers and to the energy sector. She has recently had her work accepted at two conferences (Clean Technology Conference and Expo 2009 in Houston and Climate Change Technology Conference 2009 in Hamilton Ontario). She is excited to present at these conferences and she is planning on pursuing graduate studies in the environmental sciences.

If you have questions about undergraduate research opportunities, please contact either the individual faculty member or Dean Dr. Don Weinkauf at dhweinkauf@stthomas.edu.