Participants give thumbs-up to UAH industry internship program


Reviewing the pilot Industry/University Cooperative Graduate Student Research Program were participants, from left, Aaron Kaulfus, Christopher Paaymans, Patrick Giddens and Joe Buckley.
Michael Mercier | UAH

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Aug. 26, 2014) - Positive relationships with industry fostered and advanced the graduate studies of the majority of University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) students who were involved in a pilot Industry/University Cooperative Graduate Student Research Program.

The effort was funded by UAH's Office of the Vice President for Research in cooperation with the Office of the School of Graduate Studies.

Students, their advisors and staff from both UAH offices and from UAH's Office of Technology Commercialization gathered Friday, Aug. 22, to review the results of the effort.

UAH wants to continue the program in partnership with industry, Vice President for Research Dr. Ray Vaughn told the gathering

"Our eventual intent is to go to the National Science Foundation for funding for this program," Dr. Vaughn said, adding that a fundamental thrust of it is to develop ongoing careers. "We did want our students to lock in with the companies involved so that they could find out what you are like and you could keep that relationship going."

"One of the goals we have in the graduate school is to provide people with opportunities to consider continuing their education," said Dr. David Berkowitz, dean of the School of Graduate Studies. "We're happy to do this, but we want to make sure that the students get the benefit out of it and the facilities get the benefit out of it."

Our eventual intent is to go to the National Science Foundation for funding for this program.

Dr. Ray Vaughn
Vice President for Research

For doctoral student Aaron Kaulfus, that's exactly what happened at Southern Co. in Birmingham. His experience "really got me involved in aspects of what the power companies are interested in environmentally," Kaulfus said. He got an introduction to research into renewable energy systems, as well.

"The biggest thing I got out of it was getting a handle on all the research they've already done," he said, adding that the time spent was productive in terms of his educational and research pursuits. He has an ongoing internship with the company.

Kaulfus' advisor, assistant professor of atmospheric science Dr. Udaysankar Nair, said the internship bore fruit in more research opportunities.

"My hope was to use this as an opportunity to get the students more involved," Dr. Nair said. As things progressed, however, he learned of new areas of solar research in which UAH could collaborate with the company. "This helped to increase that connection." The company is currently identifying projects and Dr. Nair is selecting students who can work on those.

Masters student Christopher Paaymans, advised by Propulsion Research Center research professor Dr. James Blackmon, said his work with Bangham Engineering Inc. and a UAH senior design class on functional, low-cost solar heliostat development resulted in a stronger product.

"I was involved with machining, testing and implementing the heliostats," he said. "In the testing process, we found out that some of our parts were not stiff enough." The resulting re-machining and testing processes made a much stronger device.

"The best thing I got out of it was working with stuff I can't afford to do myself," Paaymans said. "We have a really good continuing relationship. It's all directly applicable to the thesis I am writing. It's a great program."

Masters student Patrick Giddens, advised by associate professor of mechanical engineering Dr. Jason Cassibry, worked at The Boeing Co. on research involving pulsed power. Marshall Space Flight Center then continued to fund his internship over the summer so he could work on the project.

"We made great progress on the little mini-pulse power project," Giddens said. He continues to work with Boeing.

"It has led to a connection between Marshall Space Flight Center, Boeing and UAH, as far as what their research is," said Dr. Cassibry. "Patrick's involvement has amplified the relationship."

Joe Buckley, advised by assistant professor of mechanical engineering Dr. George Nelson, said that his computational simulations at Plasma Processes got him involved in new projects and developed new skill sets.

"Finding the solutions to new problems and learning to locate the research information I needed, those are skills that will continue to be helpful to me in the future," Buckley said.

Electrical and computer engineering professor Dr. Junpeng Guo is enthused about the program's future.

"I plant to continue in it," Dr. Guo said. "It has boosted the research for both the university and the industries. There is synergy, I think, in these types of relationships."

Pilot program participants, principal investigators, departments, industries and projects were:

  • Christopher Paaymans; Dr. James Blackmon; Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering/Propulsion Research Center; Bangham & Associates; Development of an Advanced Solar Concentrator Drive Unit;
  • Patrick Giddens; Dr. Jason Cassibry; Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering/Propulsion Research Center; The Boeing Co.; Energy Yield Calculations and Hardware Development for Fusion Propulsion Research Utilizing Charger-1;
  • hi Yang; Dr. Chien-Pin Cheng; Chemical and Material Engineering; ESI CFD Inc.; Computational Flow Structure Interaction for Rocket Nozzles;
  • Boyang Zhang; Dr. Junpeng Guo; Electrical and Computer Engineering; CFD Research Corp.; Collaborative Investigation of Metal Nanostructure Surface Plasmons for Biomedical and Sensor Applications;
  • Joseph Buckley; Dr. George Nelson; Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering/Propulsion Research Center; Plasma Processes; Heat Transfer Analysis of High Temperature Materials Fabricated by Plasma Spray;
  • Javier Santiago; Dr. Carmen Scholz; Chemistry; iXpress Genes & HudsonAlpha Center for Biotechnology; High Throughput Protein Production through Affinity Chromatography;
  • Aaron Kaulfus; Dr. Udaysankar Nair; Atmospheric Science: Southern Co.; Role of Cloud and Mesoscale Processes on the Transport and Fate of Atmospheric Trace Species;
  • Michael Mascaro; Dr. Kunning Xu; Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering; Aerojet Rocketdyne; Graduate Research in Rotating Detonation Engine.

For more information, contact:
Dr. Ray Vaughn


Dr. David Berkowitz


Jim Steele


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