University of Wisconsin-Platteville freshman Eliot Driessen, an electrical engineering major from Appleton, Wisconsin, is embarking on his first year of undergraduate research. After being awarded the Undergraduate Research, Scholarly and Creative Activity Scholarship, Driessen has been assisting Dr. Hal Evensen, professor of engineering physics with his research in the nano lab.
“During my first semester, I learned about the fabrication steps to making a transistor. I made a transistor out of carbon nanotubes and got to test it,” said Driessen. “This semester we are working on more advanced materials with field emissions from nanotubes.”
According to Evensen, it’s important for UW-Platteville engineering students to be exposed to undergraduate research. He said it allows students to be creative, learn and apply new skills.
“Research is neat because students have the opportunity to do something no one has done before,” said Evensen. “It’s an exciting opportunity. Students have the opportunity to not only be at the cutting-edge, but use equipment they don’t normally use.”
Driessen has already experienced how conducting research takes resilience. “The challenges of the research are it’s on a really small scale. It’s really finicky and fragile,” he said. “The reward is the experience to have the research.”
Throughout his tenure at UW-Platteville, Evensen has watched how undergraduate researchers have grown through their hands-on experiences.
“When students start they are still trying to get their legs under them; trying to gain confidence,” he said. “By the time they are seniors, they are helping me because they’re training new students. They are showing leadership.”
Evensen encourages students interested in undergraduate research to reach out to their instructors and advisors.
“Everybody takes chemistry and physics in their first year,” said Evensen. “Those are good professors to talk to. There is a lot going on in those two departments. We also know what our colleagues in the other engineering departments are doing as well.”
Undergraduate research is a beneficial experience for both the student and professor.
“I enjoy working with undergraduate researchers,” said Evensen. “It’s so easy to be pulled away in different directions and not make progress on a project. If I want to make progress on a project, I get a student on it. I feel a responsibility. I want to mentor the student and I want to make sure they are on track. It helps keep the project moving forward. Students not only help by doing a lot of work, but it also keeps me engaged because working with them is a huge part of the reward for me.”
“If you are interested, do it,” added Driessen. “It’s been a really good experience. I recommend it to anyone who may be interested.”