Undergraduates Gain Research Experience, Mentorship Through RPI-Corning Program

June 4, 2024

Group photo of college students and older adults in a professional setting
RPI students in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, front, with Corning and RPI mentors at Corning’s Sullivan Park Science and Technology Center. Photo courtesy of Corning

On April 26, seven Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute undergraduate students showcased research projects in the areas of materials science, computer modeling, chemical engineering, and more at a symposium held at Corning’s Sullivan Park Science & Technology Center just outside of Corning, New York.

Through the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program in the Center for Materials, Devices, and Integrated Systems, these students worked with mentors at RPI and Corning over the course of two semesters to investigate research questions related to Corning’s work in the glass and materials industry.

“Hearing and watching the presentations, I kept having to remind myself that I was learning from undergraduates, not graduate students in their last years of a Ph.D. That goes to show not just the caliber of our students but also the impact of giving undergraduates hands-on research opportunities along with dedicated mentorship from world-class experts,” said Shekhar Garde, Ph.D., dean of the RPI School of Engineering. 

“Corning and RPI, two storied institutions of engineering innovation, have enjoyed a fruitful partnership over the years,” said Robert Hull, Ph.D., RPI’s vice president for research. “The many RPI alumni who go on to work for Corning, the leadership of Tom Capek, RPI alumnus and Board of Trustees member, as well as undergraduate research programs like this one keep that connection strong.”

“Corning’s long history of innovation is sustained by our talent pipeline. Collaborating with RPI on programs like the undergraduate research program is a great opportunity to excite and motivate students to pursue careers in glass and ceramic engineering,” said Jared Aaldenberg, ’07, Ph.D.’16, research associate at Corning. “Materials and mechanical engineering, computational modeling, and physics, are just a few disciplines vital to the development, support, and manufacturing of Corning’s innovations.”

Before their presentations, the students and their faculty mentors toured Corning’s R&D facilities and got to connect their research projects to Corning’s work in the areas of fiberoptics, display glass, pollution reduction, pharmaceutical technologies, and more. 

The students’ research projects covered a range of topics:

Peter Crisileo ’24 was mentored by Minoru Tomozawa, Ph.D., professor in the RPI Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and Emily Aaldenberg ’15, Ph.D.’19, a research scientist at Corning who earned her doctorate at RPI and was Tomozawa’s student. Crisileo’s project investigated why glass is more likely to crack when exposed to water or water vapor, a phenomenon that is still not well understood in the field of glass science. 

Natalie Gavin ’25 was mentored by Liping Huang, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and associate vice president for research, and Jesse Kohl, Ph.D., senior research associate at Corning. Gavin worked on developing and testing protective coatings for ceramic parts used in high-power engines such as those in airplanes.

Zach Knowlan ’24 was mentored by two RPI faculty members, Jacob Merson ’15, Ph.D. ’21, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering (MANE), and professor and MANE Department Head Antoinette Maniatty, Ph.D.; and Francisco Moraga, ‘96G, Ph.D. ‘98, senior precision engineer at Corning. Knowlan used computer algorithms to model the complex physics involved in the glass forming process. 

Student at a podium
Sara Seelman '24 presenting on solid state batteries. Photo courtesy of Corning

Sara Seelman ’24 was mentored by Fudong Han, Ph.D., assistant professor and Priti and Mukesh Chatter ’82 Career Development Chair in the MANE Department, and Lawrence Gammond, Ph.D., research engineer at Corning. Seelman developed a specialized glass formulation for use in solid state batteries.

Kevin Wang ’24 was mentored by Yunfeng Shi, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and Drew Antony, Ph.D., senior process modeling engineer at Corning. Wang created computer simulations of the molecular structure and behavior of silica glass. 

Student at a podium
Rachel Wnuk presenting on a new heat pipe design. Photo courtesy of Corning

Rachel Wnuk ’24 was mentored by two RPI faculty members, Joel Plawsky, Ph.D., head of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, and Shanbin Shi, Ph.D., assistant professor in the MANE Department; and Thao Nguyen ’16G, ’17 Ph.D., thermal engineer at Corning. Wnuk tested a design for a heat pipe, a device to helps redirect heat, that could be used in the high-temperature environment of glass manufacturing. 


Written By Samantha Murray
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