Fall 2013 Burnett Research Scholars Grant Recipients

Fall 2013 Burnett Research Scholars Grant Recipients

 

Matthew Patsis

Major:  History

Faculty mentor:  Dr. Ezekiel Walker, Department of History

Project title:  The Legacy of African Veterans of the Second World War and Their Role in the Independence Movements of the Late Twentieth Century


Project summary:
My research is focusing on colonial independence movements in French West Africa after World War II and the role that African veterans of WWII played in the rise of nationalism in their respective countries. Additionally, I will be examining the effect that those same veterans had in gaining independence during the independence movements of the 1950's and 60's.

What is your area of research interest?
The broad area of my research is African History. Specifically, I will be researching African nationalism after WWII, African independence movements, African WWII veterans in independence movements, and the decolonization of Africa.

How did you get started in undergraduate research?
My introduction to undergraduate research began last Spring (2013) in my HIS 4150 class with Dr. Amelia Lyons. I began researching this topic for my term paper in that course and was encouraged by Dr. Lyons to expand my research by applying for the Burnett Research Scholars grant.  

How has the Burnett Research Scholars grant helped you achieve the goals of your research project?
The Burnett Research Scholars grant will allow me to better pursue my research goals by providing me with the funding I need to access valuable resources that constitute the body of African historiography. For instance, I will now be able to travel to the University of Florida in Gainesville, which has the largest collection of works in African studies in the South East region, to access a wider body of both primary and secondary sources.

What are your future academic and professional goals?
I hope to continue my academic career by attending graduate school and hopefully earning a doctorates degree so that I may one day teach on the collegiate level.

In your opinion, what is the best thing about being an undergraduate researcher?
I believe that the best thing about being an undergraduate researcher is that I get to expand my own knowledge while conducting research in a specific area of history that is not available for study through any standard course at UCF. Additionally, being an undergraduate researcher allows me the opportunity to begin contributing to the body of scholarly work in the field of African historiography, while making myself a better and more knowledgeable student.

 

John Vastola

Major:  Mathematics

Faculty mentor:  Dr. Costas Efthimiou, Department of Physics

Project title:  Computing the Rank of an Arbitrary Elliptic Curve


Project summary:
An elliptic curve is a special kind of polynomial equation of degree 3 in two variables. If we consider only those points on the curve with rational coordinates, we find that we can define a way to ‘add’ two points to get another point. The set of rational points on a given elliptic curve together with this operation forms a ‘group,’ an algebraic structure with interesting properties. In particular, this group is finitely generated; this means that any point on the curve can be expressed as some combination of a finite number of points. To obtain a given point, we need both ‘torsion’ points—which can only generate a finite number of other points on the curve—and non-torsion points, which can generate infinitely many. We call the smallest number of non-torsion points that we need to generate any point on the curve the rank of that curve.

In general, it is not known how to compute the rank of an elliptic curve. It is also not known if the rank of a curve can be arbitrarily high; the highest known rank is at least 28. We will attempt to characterize the non-torsion points needed to generate an arbitrary point on the curve, gather numerical evidence for the existence of arbitrarily large ranks, and contribute results in the direction of calculating the rank of a given curve. 

What is your area of research interest?
I study elliptic curves, their applications to cryptography and physics, and their relationship with interesting problems in number theory.

How did you get started in undergraduate research?
This past spring, I had heard from a student in one of my classes that Dr. Efthimiou was a good person to talk to about research and graduate school. Christopher Frye, the student in question, had previously worked under him for a long time with good results. While I had been interested in undergraduate research for a while, Dr. Efthimiou has given me the guidance necessary to seriously move forward with a project. He proposed that I study elliptic curves, and has helped me learn the background necessary to proceed.

How has the Burnett Research Scholars grant helped you achieve the goals of your research project?
The grant helps me access necessary reference material, and covers much of the cost of presenting at a conference. I am deeply grateful that the Burnett Honors College is supporting me—especially given how hard it can be to pay for school sometimes.  

What are your future academic and professional goals?
I hope to continue to study elliptic curves—and algebraic geometry in general. The field is currently enjoying vigorous research activity, and I only wish that I might eventually be able to contribute something useful. When I finish my degrees in math and physics, I would like to go on to graduate school in mathematical physics.   

In your opinion, what is the best thing about being an undergraduate researcher?
Doing research as an undergraduate has helped me think about what problems I find interesting, and about what I might want to specialize in during graduate school. In math and physics, as in other research-oriented disciplines, the ability to do independent research is crucial.

 

Wade Wilson

Major: Electrical Engineering

Faculty mentor: Dr. Debashis Chanda, Nanoscience Technology Center

Project title: Plasmonic Sensor


Project summary:
My project will look into the fabrication process of a plasmonic sensor.  When a certain type of particle is detected, the spectral response of the reflected light will be observed.  The goal is to find out what pattern of nanostructure will produce the best response to the desired particle and at what concentrations the particle can be detected.

What is your area of research interest?
My area of research is nanotechnology and light-matter interactions.  My area of interest is solid state device physics.

How did you get started in undergraduate research?
I took a class called STEM Research Academy in the Spring of 2012.  In that class we learned about the process of finding a research mentor and performing research.  We also discussed publishing papers and being a professor.

How has the Burnett Research Scholars grant helped you achieve the goals of your research project?
The grant will be used to purchase supplemental materials for the project that are not already available in our labs.  It will also help show the rest of my research group that I am serious about my research goals and am a contributing member of the team.

What are your future academic and professional goals?
After graduating with my BS EE, I plan on attending graduate school (hopefully at a top 10 school).  I then want to pursue a career in IRAD (industrial research and development) as an electrical engineering researcher.

In your opinion, what is the best thing about being an undergraduate researcher?

The best thing about being an undergraduate researcher is being exposed to high level academic topics outside of the classroom and then seeing those topics later in the classroom.  This brings a level of understanding to the student that cannot be experienced without being exposed to real data.