EUROPE - Rising to the Research Challenge in Germany

By Marcia Faye
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Aachen, Germany

This summer, six IIT undergraduates were given the chance “to rise up and go beyond” by expanding their educational and cultural horizons through the Research Internships in Science and Engineering (RISE) program. According to the IIT Study Abroad Office, more than 2,000 students from the United States and Canada applied to the 2013 program offered by the German Academic Exchange Service, which matches American and Canadian undergraduates majoring in biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences, and engineering with research groups at universities and top research institutions in Germany.

“Apart from obtaining math, physics, and computer science knowledge, I gained an overall feel for what it is like to spend one’s life in research,” said RISE alumna Irina Papuc (PHYS ’12) in a post-program testimonial about her work alongside physicists on an experiment utilizing the Large Hadron Collider. Papuc noted that because of her experience she better appreciated highly theoretical subjects, more easily seeing where they fit into the research puzzle. She is currently building an open-design platform called WikiDwell, noting that her physics experience opened her eyes to the benefits of open source.

Electrical engineering graduate student J. Sebastián Hurtado is currently fulfilling a six-month RISE Professional internship that pairs graduating seniors, and master’s and doctoral students with German companies. After only one month at Nuance Communications in Aachen, he says that there is a universal language that is deeply understood, no matter the nationality.

“My coworkers have been really attentive to me and another international Ph.D. student, showing us new places, taking us to restaurants—and most important of all—talking to us like friends,” says Hurtado.

J. Sebastián Hurtado

Major: Electrical Engineering

RISE Professional Company: Nuance Communications

Project: To improve automatic speech recognition (ASR) performance in noisy environments by speech-signal enhancement (SE)

Research: Is developing a real-time system that combines ASR and SE in such a way that software algorithms can be analyzed

Greatest challenge: “Getting to know how the ASR and SE software interact; it’s always complicated understanding someone else’s work, especially when you need to modify it and adapt it to a particular solution.”

Favorite memories: “Fischerstechen, or water jousting, which happens once every four years, so I was quite lucky to be here. A parade goes around the city and ends on the Danube River. I also enjoyed a bike tour with three coworkers from Ulm to Blaubeuren. The landscape was beautiful!”

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Photo: Michael Goss

Tim Maculewicz

Major: Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

RISE Institution: Technische Universität Berlin

Project: To measure the noise generated by a controlled flame (with applications for reducing noise generated by combustion engines and turbines)

Research: Designed and machined components for the test burner and calculated, analyzed, and presented data

Accomplishment: “I designed a Bunsen burner attachment for the head of the experimental burner so that the flame would not undergo blowout under high pressure and lean conditions.”

Favorite memory: “A friend and I took a weekend trip to Copenhagen. We planned to bike from Berlin to Rostock, on the Baltic Sea, and then to take a ferry to Sweden from which we would take a train to Copenhagen. The bike ride was incredibly difficult as it was on hilly terrain. It was beautiful, however, as we biked through plains and forests, and stopped in some very pleasant cities in between. We did not end up biking the whole way and decided to take a train halfway to save ourselves some pain.”

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Photo: Michael Goss

Abhiroop Chattopadhyay

Major: Electrical Engineering

RISE Institution: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

Project: To determine how a low-power laser beam could be used to predict wind speed in the vicinity of large offshore wind turbines

Research: Designed and ran simulations of how the laser beam would disperse and scatter in the atmosphere

Greatest challenge: “The specific type of scattering we were studying is a little-explored area of science. There are no mathematical models to quantify results for this, and very little experimental data exists with which to corroborate our results. It is akin to saying that we don’t know what would happen when a ball collides with another ball; the only way to find out is to actually make it happen.”

Favorite memory: “Traveling to the town of Füssen to see the fabled Neuschwanstein castle. You may never have heard of it, but your childhood is full of it as it’s the model for most fairytale castles. It is a true delight for the eyes.”

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Photo: Michael Goss

Whitney Theisen

Major: Architectural Engineering/Engineering Management

RISE Institution: Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

Project: To evaluate models in structural engineering

Research: Learned the practical application of coding, and produced and formatted graphs and figures in Matlab and AutoCAD

Greatest challenge: “My Ph.D. student gave me a paper on the topics of sensitivity and uncertainty, and two MATLAB codes as examples. From the information in the paper and the codes, I had to understand the code, find if there were any mistakes in the code and fix them, reformat it all to fit the project the student was working on, and output the desired results from the samples gathered from the project.”

Favorite memory: “I visited family in Nürnburg. I had not seen them since I was three years old, so it was nice to reconnect and get to know them better. They also showed me around the city and took me on the Autobahn.”