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Undergraduate Research Day in Charleston

Rachel James (February 17, 2014)

I have spent the two most recent summers working for Dr. Avinash Unnikrishnan as an undergraduate research assistant through the WVU Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program.

One of these experiences was spent while simultaneously completing the rigorous McNair Summer Internship. These research experiences have led to two peer reviewed journal publications, one of which I have first authorship. Additionally, I have had the opportunity to make six conference presentations. I have also contributed to three technical reports, including one evaluating the first two roundabouts in the state of West Virginia from a cost, public opinion, level of service, and public adaptability standpoint. Thanks to my research experience I’ve gained over the last three years, I was named a 2013 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar, the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Universities Transportation Centers Student of the Year, and advanced to the first round of interviews for the Hertz Fellowship, an opportunity offered to less than 18% of the 2013 pool of applicants. McNair has significantly helped me as I’ve advanced through my academic career. I came to McNair having already completed a NASA Space Grant Consortium research experience, but McNair helped me to fine-tune my research method and really learn the value of citations. Additionally, the GRE prep and personal attention to my statement of purpose has helped me to gain acceptance to the University of California – Berkeley, the University of Texas at Austin, and Georgia Tech. I’ve also been invited to attend the recruitment weekend at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. For any student that dreams of pursuing graduate studies, but lacks the skill sets and direction for how to achieve their goal, the McNair Program will arm you with a toolbox of skills that will make you extremely competitive for admission to graduate schools. It’s a great program, and the connections you build with the McNair staff and your fellow cohort members are priceless.


With Senator Sam Cann, Delegate Peggy Smith and her mom at my poster presentation on “Accounting for Early and Late Penalties in Stochastic Shortest Paths” at the 11th Annual Undergradaute Research Day at the Capitol on January 30, 2014