Campus Recognizes Geubelle for Guiding Undergraduate Research

2014-03-19

Aerospace Engineering Prof. Philippe Geubelle
Aerospace Engineering Prof. Philippe Geubelle
Philippe Geubelle, Bliss Professor in the College of Engineering and Aerospace Engineering Department Head, is the 2014 winner of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Campus Award for Excellence in Guiding Undergraduate Research.

Geubelle, who will be recognized during the Celebration of Teaching Excellence ceremony on April 22, clearly has made providing such opportunities to undergraduates a priority both in his own research program in computational mechanics and in his role as an administrator.

He averages advising four or five undergraduate research projects annually, particularly during the summer months. While he meets weekly with each undergraduate researcher to set key directions, ensure resources are available and determine progress, Geubelle has a graduate student mentor provide day-to-day technical input. Having this experience is valuable for the graduate student, as well, particularly if the graduate student is interested in an academic position, Geubelle said. He creates opportunities in his own research programs for students from several College of Engineering departments as well as French students participating in an exchange program between Illinois and Ecole Centrale de Lille.

“It is clear that (Geubelle) and his graduate students are extremely effective mentors for these undergraduates, as they often have no prior formal training in the computational methods that they need to use in their projects,” said AE Prof. J. Craig Dutton, who nominated Geubelle for the award. “Nevertheless, the undergrads seem to come up to speed very rapidly and make very substantial findings and contributions during the course of their efforts.”

Geubelle has extended his advocacy for undergraduate research through his role in the Illinois Space Grant Consortium (ISGC), a National Aeronautics and Space Administration-sponsored higher education workforce development program within Illinois. As ISGC Director, Geubelle has made undergraduate research the major recipient of ISGC funding. He also stretched the number of spots available for interested undergrads by encouraging industry and other individual faculty members to participate in and help finance research projects.

At the University of Illinois, Geubelle created the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) in aerospace engineering and science in which about 15 undergraduate students take part every summer in a variety of research projects. In addition to doing research, the student interns participate in weekly workshops covering diverse topics such as research ethics, discussion with an aerospace engineer, how to apply to graduate school, and how to give technical talks and write a technical document.

“I consider the UROP program, which, over its 10-year existence has offered a ‘full research experience’ to 188 undergraduate engineering students at the University of Illinois and many more across the State of Illinois, as one of my key (and most successful) contributions to undergraduate engineering education,” Geubelle said.
In addition to these accomplishments, Geubelle was the Principal Investigator of a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site award between 2006 and 2008. This allowed him to recruit about 30 undergraduates from outside universities to come to Illinois for a summer to do research.

Because of Geubelle’s passion in this area “there are substantially more opportunities for undergraduate students to work with faculty and discover the rewards of research,” Dutton said.