Carol Chao

1. What is your specific area of research (include the name of your faculty and/or laboratory)?
I am currently participating in a research project entitled "Optical Switch: Micro Mirror Design and Testing." This project is supervised by Dr. Andrei M. Shkel of the Microsystems Lab in the department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
2. When and how did you first get involved in research?

I first became involved with research during my second year of college. I was introduced to Dr. Frank Wessel of the department of Physics through one of his students, who was working on one of Dr. Wessel’s research projects. The objective of that project was the implementation of a space propulsion system that applied the Collide Beam Fusion Reactor to the mission to Mars. I joined the mission analysis in this project where I learned how to operate the mathematics software, "Mathematica," and implement the trajectory of our designed engine from the earth to Mars.

3. How has research enhanced you education?

While I’ve been involved in research, I have experimented with a new career. The research process has trained me to be independent from textbooks and solution guides. To research is to find answers. Professors usually provide instructions and experienced suggestions, but leave the thinking and problem solving to students. There are neither definite examples we can repeat, nor correct answers with which we can check our results. Research is a real-world situation where knowledge is only the equipment and tools. Useful results usually require much hard work and effort. I have realized the value of education and also the self-motivation it takes to be a good researcher. I have also learned how to focus on my studies in order to equip myself for my future career.

4. What has been you favorite experience with research (include any interesting stories or specific events)?

During the project "Space propulsion system: the application of CBFR," my colleagues and I participated in the Space Technology and Applications International Forum Meeting held by NASA in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Dr. Wessel presented our research results among many presentations by researchers from all around the country. That was a unique opportunity to participate in the organization and events of a science community. We were also introduced to many researchers from other institutes and were able to exchange information with one another.

5. What are your future plans and how has being involved in research helped to prepare you to meet your goals?

I have recently been offered a great opportunity to participate in the development of optical switches applying MEMS technology. This learning and researching experience has brought out much of my interest in this field. I have considered focusing on this field of study for my future engineering career. I really appreciate that I have not just received an education and a diploma from my time in college, but have also had a chance to explore my field of interest and to start building foundations for my future goals.

6. What advice would you give to a student interested in pursuing a faculty-mentored undergraduate research project or creative activity?

The university is a diverse place full of various research opportunities. Many faculty and programs are there to support students who have the initiative to partake of research opportunities. Thus, if you want to make research one of your best college experiences, do not hesitate to reach out and contact someone for assistance and who might provide you the opportunity!

Past Researchers of the Month

Dec. '00 Chris Gothard
Nov. '00 Kristoffer Nicolaisen
Oct. '00 Bryan Sommerse
Sep. '00 Ryan Stafford
Aug. '00 Carol Chao
Jul. '00 Gopi Manthrapagada
Jun. '00 Heather Smith
May '00 Pany Tehrani
Apr. '00 Kirsten Cappel
Mar. '00 Shelly Brown-Riddle
Feb. '00 Nader Nassif
Jan. '00 Rebecca Kanter
Recent Year