Chemical & Nuclear Engineering Asso. Professor Plamen Atanassov with students


Life is about to get better for undergraduate students at the University of New Mexico School of Engineering with a new $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation that will provide paid internships with participating companies and national laboratories over the next five years.

The goal of the grant is to transform the way engineering is taught at the undergraduate level.  It means engineering faculty will begin to mentor students in a more organized fashion.  Mentoring occurs naturally when faculty members work with students who need guidance and advisement.

As part of this grant, faculty members will mentor 10-15 students and will work to construct an experience that helps students enrich their academic life.  The School of Engineering will give them a support group helping students stay on track as they move through their curriculum.

As part of the overall grant, about 75 undergraduate students will have sponsored trips to professional conferences each year. The goal is to assist students who have posters or other work to present at the conferences with travel expenses and to introduce undergraduates to the world of professional engineers. Students who want help with resume writing and other job connections will work with Career Services at UNM.

Tariq Khraishi, associate professor in Mechanical Engineering is the principal investigator for the grant.  Co-PI's include: Heather Canavan, assistant professor, Chemical and Nuclear Engineering; Melanie Moses, assistant professor, Computer Science; Christos Christodoulou, professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Jerald Rounds, professor, Civil Engineering.

Several companies have agreed to help support the internships with matching funds or other in-kind services.  Participating companies include: Cannon and Wendt Electric Co., HB Construction, AUI Inc., Gerald Martin, Ltd., 3M Corporation and Hewlett-Packard. Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratory, the Air Force Research Laboratory, the New Mexico Engineering Foundations and the NM Office of the State Engineer are also partners in the grant with most seeking interns.

The collaborative effort was the culmination of support from the SOE Dean's Office and all departments, President's Office, Provost's Office, UNM Foundation, UNM Career Services and the State Legislature.

"Overall we intend to immerse undergraduate engineering students in the academic and professional environment so they are more likely to stay with the program and graduate," says Khraishi.  "We want them to understand that engineers work in a cooperative environment, and that kind of environment can be very personally and professionally satisfying."

With the grant announcement, faculty and students will begin organizing this fall.  The first paid interns will be available to work with companies next summer.  Companies who are interested in the program should e-mail Tariq Khrishi.

Media contact: Karen Wentworth (505) 277-5627; e-mail: kwent2@unm.edu