Campus News

Annual engineering conference will focus on students

Faculty and students from across campus will come together Oct. 24 for the second annual University of Georgia Engineering Conference at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education. After a successful inaugural event in 2004 that continued to build on the ­university-wide research momentum of UGA engineering, this year’s conference is focused on interdisciplinary student involvement and contributions.

The UGA Faculty of Engineering, created in 2001 to leverage university strengths at the interfaces of academic disciplines to create new, entrepreneurial ­engineering research networks, has grown to nearly 110 members from 24 departments across eight schools and colleges. From infectious diseases to microbiology to ecology to nanotechnology to biorefining, engineering is leading the way at UGA as a mechanism to bring faculty expertise and student experience to bear on today’s most pressing problems.

To highlight the important role students play in facilitating research across such a broad spectrum of knowledge, the 2005 conference will feature two keynote speakers who exemplify the UGA experience and its new directions: Naveen Agnihotri returns to UGA to reflect on his experience as graduate student in biological engineering in the opening session and at the luncheon, assistant professor Andrew Sornborger shares his perspective as the first joint engineering and mathematics appointee in 2003.

“My time at UGA was a key moment in my career,” says Agnihotri, who completed his Ph.D. at Columbia University under the tutelage of Nobel laureate Eric Kandel. He then conducted post-doctoral research on neural networks in the brain at MIT before launching his own startup company.

“Because UGA has strong basic science programs, all one had to do to take biochemistry and neurobiology courses was to walk down the street,” he says, a unique condition that, paired with mentors William Kisaalita from engineering and Charlie Keith from cellular biology, made him a very attractive candidate to some of the nation’s premier research ­institutions.

“Graduate students are a central ingredient in building connections between disciplines to achieve ­cutting-edge breakthroughs,” says Brahm Verma, engineering professor, “but it is equally important that we prepare students in this type of environment as well.”

The conference also will feature presentations from five current graduate students, in addition to faculty research presentations in the afternoon and a poster presentation in the Georgia Center’s main atrium.
David Lee, UGA vice president for research, will address the conference in an afternoon open forum on the UGA research agenda.