Asee peer logo

Undergraduate Research Participation In The Experimental Aerodynamics Group

Download Paper |


2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.1079.1 - 6.1079.11

Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Narayanan Komerath

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2526

Undergraduate Research Participation in the Experimental Aerodynamics Group Narayanan Komerath Professor, Aerospace Engineering Georgia Institute of Technology


In the 1980s, the idea of faculty spending time to guide undergraduates in research projects was still considered to be rather risky in the traditions of the tenure track. This paper discusses the crucial role played by undergraduates in the research programs of the Experimental Aerodynamics Group at the School of Aerospace Engineering. Since 1985, roughly 90 students have participated in our program. About 50% have worked with us for more than a year, and a large majority have gone on to graduate school. Current participation averages 10 students at any given time. This paper summarizes experience in this program. Various ways in which undergraduates participate are summarized in the following categories: Research team members, Special Problems courses, Team projects / competitions, undergraduate research internships, and summer internships, as well as experience with high school students on summer assignment. General policies, evaluation criteria, programs metrics and lessons learned are summarized. The importance of recognizing individual preferences and talents is indicated, as well as the challenges and rewards of conducting programs with a broad range of participant interests. It is emphatically true that undergraduate participation is an absolutely vital “raison d’etre” of this university research group.

I. Introduction

In this paper, the evolution of undergraduate (UG) participation an experimental research group is discussed. Starting as a rarity in the 1970s and 80s, undergraduate participation has become prevalent today. The paper starts with a summary of peceived constraints, and the logic that enabled their circumvention. It then presents various mechanisms used to enable UGs to participate, and compares their features. The dynamics of team environments are then considered, in the context of the learning curve which faces UGs in research. Mechanisms of recruitment and advertisement are then discussed. The impact of UG participation is presented using several examples, projects uniquely enabled by UG participation are showcased.

Constraints and counter-arguments In the 1980s, the idea of faculty spending time to guide undergraduates in research projects was still considered to be rather risky in the traditions of the tenure track. Many difficulties were cited. There was an abundance of anecdotal evidence for each of these obstacles. Few if any examples of sustained success with UG participation in research could be presented. In this environment, it was illuminating to compare the perceived obstacles against some of the realities of the graduate research program. Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition. Copyright ©2001 American Society for Engineering Education.

Komerath, N. (2001, June), Undergraduate Research Participation In The Experimental Aerodynamics Group Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2001 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015