Carnegie Mellon University

students writing and typing in a group

January 03, 2022

Encouraging Student Research

By Madison Brewer

Participating in research can have a profound effect on a student’s future career. It allows them to gain high-level experiences and technical skills in their field. They also learn skills like time management and teamwork, which are valuable no matter what industry the student ultimately goes into.

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering helps students find research projects with their student project tracker. The tracker, called SPT for short, was created in 2017 by then advisor Nesli Ozdoganlar and Chad Hilton, systems and software engineer, as an administrative system to keep track of master’s student research. Now, there are over one thousand posted projects for undergraduate and master’s students.

“It's an overarching database to show how exciting it is to be an ECE student,” said Holly Skovira, an academic program advisor for ECE. “It gives students a really easy and concise way to engage in their education outside of the classroom setting.”

Faculty post projects and specify any skills students would need to work with them. They also include which campus the project is located at, if the work can be done remotely, and what compensation students will receive. Then, students can search the database and apply for projects they’re qualified for and interested in.

The SPT has been especially beneficial to master’s students, who can earn credit towards their degree by working on research projects. This gives them more time for research, meaning they can tackle bigger projects. Master’s students also can better connect with faculty, opening opportunities for their futures.

Before SPT, Skovira said that most undergraduate ECE students involved in research worked with their professors from a class, meaning they often worked with professors in other departments. Now, more undergraduates are engaging with faculty. While faculty in other departments can post projects, those for units need to be affiliated with an ECE faculty member.

“The student project tracker gives students a much wider range of possibilities and different ways to go deep into research,” Skovira said. “It gives them that experience before they graduate and either go into the workforce or go to another higher education.”