Research flourishes at Rowan University

Research flourishes at Rowan University

Cancer treatments, solar power, robots and video games: Research is flourishing at Rowan University.
Cancer treatments, solar power, robots and video games: Research is flourishing at Rowan University.

While Rowan is not technically a “research institution,” research is indeed alive and well — and well funded — at the Glassboro school.

Close to 250 students and professors presenting more than 100 research projects at the 14th annual Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) symposium demonstrated that quite well in April.

“At the first STEM symposium, students presented about 40 projects. The growth we’ve seen since then is a sign that Rowan is doing something right,” said associate professor of biological sciences and STEM symposium coordinator Dr. Gregory Hecht. 

Between the number and nature of projects, the symposium exemplified the evolution of research at Rowan. 

“Science used to be very narrow, but now interdisciplinary work has become very important,” Hecht said. 

For example, students Yoshi Araki, Kevin Feller and Kevin Scott, along with physics professor Dr. Tabbetha Dobbins, presented a project that combined physics and biology.  The physics students synthesized gold nanoparticles, which will be attached to cancer cells.  After laser light is shined on them, the gold nanoparticles will turn the light into heat, which kills the cancer cells.  The entire treatment process is called laser photothermal therapy and is being researched for clinical applications.

Students from the Electrical & Computer Engineering and Chemical Engineering programs worked together to develop a preliminary plan to install a 10-megawatt photovoltaic system on Rowan’s west campus. The system would provide about a quarter of Rowan’s energy demand and help Rowan reach its carbon neutrality goal. Researchers include undergraduate students Ryan Winslow, Zachary Grady, Michael Schaeffer, Nicholas Binaco and Patrick Corrigan; graduate student Daniel Schmalzel; and associate professor of electrical & computer engineering Dr. Peter Jansson.

Several computer science groups showed the practical applications they developed to demonstrate learning concepts to students. Undergraduates Stacey Montresor and Jonathon Summerton are working on a robot that teaches itself to walk. The students collaborated with associate professor of computer science Dr. Jennifer Kay using an existing algorithm with an inexpensive robot that they designed from LEGO components. The resulting system could be used in artificial intelligence classes around the world to teach the concept of reinforcement learning.

Graduate students Robert Russell, Remo Cocco, Edward Burns, Andrew Fabian and Spence DiNicolantonio and computer science professor Dr. Adrian Rusu developed a series of video games that simulates software development concepts in a fun and interactive way. 

“The thought process of the player resembles that of a software engineer. By playing the games, students learn about software development without actually knowing that they are learning,” says Russell.

Those projects are just a sampling of the research underway at Rowan.