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New Program Incorporates Undergraduate Students in Smart Cities Research

NSF grant expands research potential for next three summers

From power plants to water supply networks and transportation systems to waste management methods, the nation’s infrastructure is aging. However, research focusing on smart cities is helping communities replace infrastructure and move into the 21st century.

A smart city is an urban area that uses a variety of data-collection sensors to monitor and manage transportation, energy, water, waste, law enforcement and other community services. DU’s research in this area is led by Amin Khodaei, associate professor and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science (RSECS). David Gao, professor of electrical engineering and the principal investigator of the recently awarded three-year grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF), will work with Khodaei and several other faculty mentors to expand undergraduate research on smart cities.

“Promoting undergraduate research in the interdisciplinary domain of smart cities is expected to enhance the design of future urban infrastructure by educating the next generation of engineers and leaders,” Khodaei says. “The theoretical and practical implications of the developed results will equip undergraduate students with the tolls required to jump-start research at the graduate level.”

The NSF grant will fund a three-year Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Site program. Ten students each year will conduct nine weeks of summer research with close interactions with DU faculty, graduate students and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) researchers. The students will be recruited each year from community colleges and universities with limited research capabilities.

“Our goal is to reach out to a broader range of students with a focus on minority and underrepresented groups through collaborations with other schools,” Gao says. “DU is committed to providing resources and support for engaging undergraduate students in research, education and training activities.”

Each undergraduate student will have a designated faculty mentor who will supervise the research activities. The project team also will engage other faculty at DU to strengthen their expertise in mentoring teams and to ensure an excellent research experience for all the students. At the conclusion of the nine weeks, students with publishable results will be encouraged to work with faculty members to submit papers to regional and national conferences.

“This project is perfectly aligned with the Ritchie School’s strategic plan 2022,” Khodaei says. “Five major research areas are identified in the strategic plan, one of these five areas is smart cities.”