Research is more than sitting in a lab or crunching numbers on a computer; it is an experience that transcends cultures and communities. This is something that Amy Lebanoff, a junior mechanical engineering major, understands completely.
“I love this field because research is just about learning and creating knowledge for other people, which eventually led me to DAAD RISE,” Lebanoff said.
This summer she will be one of 578 undergraduates from the U.S., Britain and Ireland undertaking a prestigious research internship in Germany. Hosted through DAAD RISE (Research Internships in Science and Engineering), Lebanoff will work alongside a Ph.D. student at the Karlsruhe Institut für Technologie, utilizing her existing research skills and developing new cultural perspectives at the same time.
Why did you apply for DAAD RISE Germany?
I learned about DAAD RISE last summer from Morgan Bauer, the director of the Office of Prestigious Awards, who told me to apply for it since I was interested in research as a career. I was particularly drawn to DAAD RISE because it combined two things I love: international experience and research. Previous study abroad trips gave me an international component to my studies, but this experience is more research-focused and academically rigorous as opposed to going out into the community and learning that way.
What past accomplishments or experiences shaped your research skills?
I started doing research in Assistant Professor Helen Huang’s BRaIN Lab, which stands for Biomechanics, Rehabilitation, and Interdisciplinary Neuroscience. I was in there for about one-and-a-half years, so I got the foundation of research and obtained experience in that area. I later switched over to Assistant Professor Andrew Dickerson’s Fluids and Structures Lab. There I’ve been able to get more familiar with the scientific process and take on an independent role in research under his guidance. This experience got me more interested in research after I went to a conference in November 2018.
Out of 1901 students applying for 578 internships, you were selected. What was your reaction when you found out?
I found out about my acceptance after waking up with my phone charging right next to my bedside. After going through it, I saw an email from DAAD. I hadn’t gotten an email from them in two months, so I was like, “Whoa, what’s that?” The message started with ‘Congratulations’ and I was like “Yes, yes!”; it was the best thing to ever read! I was stunned because a lot of accomplished people applied to this program, and to be selected out of them was incredible.
What will your responsibilities be as an intern at the Karlsruhe Institut für Technologie?
From my understanding, it’s going to be a full-time position and I’ll be supporting data collections and helping guide the project as allowed by the Ph.D. student. This is going to be like my first full-time research position, which will be interesting because currently I can just walk away or do schoolwork if I get frustrated with my research. Now I will be around it constantly and expected to solve those problems.
What are you most looking forward to during this experience?
There are two sides to this: academic and recreational. On the academic side, I’m looking forward to gaining more expertise in a field that’s like mine but not the same. In Dickerson’s lab we’re looking at fluid dynamics and how that interacts with either animals or plants, while this Germany project will focus on evaporation of drops in diesel engines, which is completely different but still dealing with fluids. I am also hoping to learn an interesting technique called particle image velocimetry and incorporate it into the lab work that I’m doing now.
From a recreational perspective, there are so many things to do in Karlsruhe. It is the second most bike-able city in Germany and is very close to France, where the Tour de France is happening this summer. My dad and I always used to watch it growing up, so they might visit me and take a little field trip to France to watch the event in person!
What do you hope to do after graduation and how will DAAD RISE contribute toward these goals?
My planned graduation is Fall 2020, after which I want to get a Ph.D. in Comparative Biomechanics. This field examines how an animal’s form leads to their function and applies that knowledge to different engineering purposes.
I believe that DAAD RISE will make me a stronger undergraduate research when I come back to UCF for my remaining year and a half of college. Having experience in this prestigious research internship program will also help me obtain other awards to fund graduate education and overall progress towards where I want to be after getting my graduate degree.