The Student Experience: Research Intensives

May 5, 2022

Gifted with curiosity and an independent nature? The Pratt Research Fellows program might be right up your alley

microscope with three focal lengths

At Duke, undergraduate students in engineering have the unique opportunity to pursue intensive research projects and work with renowned faculty over three semesters, beginning in their third or even second year, through the Pratt Research Fellows program.

Each fellow works on a research project of their choosing, under the guidance of a faculty advisor. By graduation, Pratt Research Fellows know their way around a lab and understand how academic research works. It’s an extremely valuable experience for those who have their sights set on graduate degree programs and those considering research and development positions in industry.

"The fellowship was huge for me with regards to pursuing a PhD,” said Becca Lau, a member of the Class of 2022, who will begin doctoral study at Stanford University in the fall. “My experience as a Pratt Fellow made me realize that research is something I see in my future.”

“My experience as a Pratt Fellow made me realize that research is something I see in my future.”

Becca Lau '22 | Mechanical engineering & German

Pratt Fellows, while undergraduates, have been known to publish scholarly papers, make presentations at noteworthy conferences, and even seek patent protection for inventions they create because of their research. Duke Engineering graduates 20 or more Pratt Research Fellows each year.

Any motivated undergraduate engineering student can apply noted Assistant Dean for Advising and Outreach Carmen Rawls, the program’s director.

“This program provides research opportunities to undergraduate students across all technical disciplines researched and taught within the Pratt School of Engineering,” said Rawls. “The research projects range from developing technology that ensures a sustainable environment for future generations to advancing treatments in medical fields.”

In these student profiles, these Pratt Research Fellows of the Class of 2022 explain their research experiences and share what they gained:

  • Yi Chen, who advanced a novel drive train for electric vehicles
  • Becca Lau, who conducted research using simulation techniques that are being applied in materials science to create new photovoltaics, fuel cells and batteries
  • Katherine Li, whose research focused on selecting bacterial strains that can remove heavy-metal pollution from the environment
  • Michael Tian, whose project explored sodium channel proteins in heart cells

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