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Student Research

Student Research

Involving undergraduate students in research and project work with industry are key components of the engineering educational experience at St Thomas. We act on our desire to involve students in the research efforts of our faculty. Half of our seniors report working on a research project with a professor outside of class while attending the University of St. Thomas.

Research adds to a student’s 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 firsthand the research and development (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.

View a few engineering student research projects highlighted in the St. Thomas Newsroom.

Summer Research Opportunities

The National Science Foundation (NSF)

The National Science Foundation (NSF) allows students to engage in research over the summer at another university or a research facility. Students receive a stipend, and in many cases housing and travel.


Past Research

These are just a few of the past research projects our engineering undergraduate students have participated in.

Project by: Lindsey Bollig ('17)
Advisor: Dr. Brittany Nelson-Cheeseman

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 were obtained from the VSM and were used to determine if the different printer settings influenced 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: Tom McCulloch ('10)
Advisor: Dr. Camille George

Tom McCulloch ('10) 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: 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.