February 22, 2013

Aggie Graduate Students Reflect on Inaugural SEC Symposium

The Southeastern Conference University (SECU) initiative had its inaugural symposium last week in Atlanta and featured SEC member institutions’ teaching, research and service impacts in renewable energy, including those of Texas A&M University.

Texas A&M was represented by faculty, graduate students and professional staff from chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering and electrical engineering, as well as Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station.

Graduate students were invited to participate in the symposium’s poster exhibitions, and as university showcase representatives and university ambassadors for the event.

Texas A&M Provost Karan L. Watson said she was pleased to see the graduate student participation. “The exchange of ideas and collaboration between faculty and their graduate students is fundamental to how we learn and advance discoveries,” she noted. “We are all extremely pleased that the SEC is investing some of the financial and marketing capital provided by the performance of our student athletes to showcase the performance of our faculty and graduate students.”

Graduate students Austin Bond, Pratik Darvekar, Tyler Mann and Sebastian Vasquez represented Texas A&M in specific roles and shared some of their impressions of the three-day symposium.

Bond, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering, served as a university ambassador. “The symposium exposed to me an extensive network of quality research in the SEC,” he said. “As an ambassador, I got to meet a number of graduate students from the other universities. We were all impressed by the human and financial resources that were brought to bear in bringing the faculty presenters together. The potential for future collaboration is tremendous.”

Mann, a doctoral student in chemical engineering, was also an ambassador and said, “As a graduate student, you typically specialize in one particular area. It was a great opportunity to see what else is happening in the broad field of renewable energy at the SEC schools.”

Serving as university showcase representatives, Darvekar and Vasquez assisted the Office of the Provost, utilizing the Energy Institute exhibit and materials from Texas A&M AgriLife Research, and multiple colleges in representing the varied impacts and efforts underway across the university.

“As a second year PhD student, this was the first conference I had the opportunity to attend and it could not have come at a better time,” Darvekar commented. “I will think differently about my research, including the policy and economic challenges in the arena. Preparing to be a part of the Texas A&M exhibit, I learned even more about the work in renewable energy happening on our own campus.”

“I was proud to be part of the Texas A&M representation, particularly when the presentation from my professor, Dr. Holtzapple, was so well received and positively commented on by the others in attendance,” said Vasquez, doctoral candidate in chemical engineering. “The symposium created bonds of support between research groups from other universities. We personally met with Dr. Philip Steele’s group from Mississippi State regarding a set of samples we had shared with them and discussed the octane levels we each were measuring in our experimentation. That kind of collaboration will be helpful to both of our teams.”

Sagar Lonkar, a doctoral student in chemical engineering, also attended as a participant and Bobby Ehrmann, doctoral candidate in aerospace engineering presented a poster on the performance factors of wind turbines.

The SECU initiative will be making additional announcements regarding faculty awards and programs in coming weeks.  Future symposia are being considered by the SEC provosts, and hopes are high for building on the initial year’s success.

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Media Contact: Lesley Henton, News & Information Services at Texas A&M University; (979) 845-5591; lshenton@tamu.edu

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