Undergraduate Research Experiences
The following is one student’s description of working at PCL….
I spent my summer working in the Process Control Lab (PCL) in the Manufacturing Engineering Department here at Boston University. The idea of working in the lab enticed me because I could gain some hands on experience in the field of engineering. I had taken a course in control systems the semester before, but had not really gotten a good enough grasp of the material to be able to apply it. Professor Gevelber, who runs the PCL, took the time to figure out the areas I was deficient in and assigned one of his graduate students the task of getting me up to speed. I was assigned a few textbook-type problems to do but was otherwise given a lot of freedom to go over the material at my own pace and to ask questions whenever the need arose. Once I started to develop a good understanding of the material, I began to help investigate the different ways one can tune a controller. This was great because it allowed me to really absorb what I was learning.
A few weeks into the summer, the Process Control Lab got involved with a startup company that produces specialty fiber optics. They wanted us to assist them in tuning the controllers they use to produce fiber optic cable. At the time, nobody who worked in the PCL knew very much, if anything, about how fiber optic cables were produced. We researched the process exhaustively, spending many hours pouring over books and searching for journal articles on the internet and in the library. We held meetings frequently to share whatever pertinent knowledge we had acquired. It was amazing how quickly we figured out how the process worked and what problems with the process existed. After consulting several times with the startup company, we determined that several tools were needed before their controllers could be tuned, among them a computerized simulation of their process and a data analysis program. One of the graduate students was in charge of the computerized simulation but I pretty much got to own the data analysis program. After many hours of hard work and frustration a skeletal version of the data analysis program was completed and presented to the company. They were quite pleased with the results. I was glad that I had been able to contribute so significantly and felt a great sense of self-satisfaction.
-Vanessa Trudeau Wassam