Mission Support and Test Services supports undergraduate research

Student researchers studied security in a variety of fields.

Brown (left) and Vahidi are wearing goggles and are in focus in the background, with lab equipment out of focus in the foreground.

Duncan Brown did research with Ehsan Vahidi in the Department of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering.

Mission Support and Test Services supports undergraduate research

Student researchers studied security in a variety of fields.

Duncan Brown did research with Ehsan Vahidi in the Department of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering.

Brown (left) and Vahidi are wearing goggles and are in focus in the background, with lab equipment out of focus in the foreground.

Duncan Brown did research with Ehsan Vahidi in the Department of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering.

Mission Support and Test Services (MSTS) is a company that manages the Nevada National Security Site. The company provides career opportunities in a variety of scientific and engineering fields related to national security. MSTS provided funding for research opportunities for six undergraduate University students during the Fall 2021 semester. The student projects all related to state security, but topics ranged from transportation of nuclear waste to the chemical ecology of plants. The student reflections on this experience are showcased below.

Matthew Armbrust

What got you interested in pursuing research as an undergraduate?

My interest in pursuing undergraduate research was first motivated by seeing all of the amazing work that my professors and peers have been doing. It made me realize that I wanted to take part in undergraduate research, mostly so that I could learn how research is conducted so that I may grow as a physicist.

What about working on your faculty member’s research project were you most excited about?

What I was, and still am, most excited about with my undergraduate research is working through each step of the research process. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to learn how to come up with ideas for research, plan out and perform experiments, and process and analyze data. Now I’m most excited to return to the experimental stage, as I’ve been able to use the data that I’ve acquired to refine the experiment.

Has this research changed anything about what you want to pursue post-graduation?

Undertaking undergraduate research has been an eye-opening experience for me; I’ve realized that I love the challenge that comes with research. This has solidified the fact that post-graduation, I will not let my life be absent of research. I haven’t decided in what form it will take place, whether it be with academia or a national lab.

Armbrust (left) and Pattengale work in the lab, surrounded by large pieces of lab equipment.
Matthew Armbrust (left) and Bradley Pattengale both worked in Aaron Covington's research lab in the Department of Physics.

Bradley Pattengale

What got you interested in pursuing research as an undergraduate?

I was interested in pursuing research as an undergraduate because I had heard it is a great way to get experience in a lab and a perfect way to tell if you want to pursue a career/graduate degree in your respective field. Also the College of Science makes it super accessible to get into a lab and start getting experience.

What about working on your faculty member’s research project were you most excited about?

I was most excited about getting to finally apply all my theoretical knowledge of my subject to an actual, real-life application and finally get to “do physics” instead of just learning it. It has been very satisfying to make the connections of certain topics with classes and in the lab. I think it helps give more of a physical understanding of these topics. 

Has this research changed anything about what you want to pursue post-graduation?

This experience has made me appreciate more the research side of graduate degrees and has made me excited for when I get the chance to do my own. It gave me a great example of what graduate research (or industry research) would look like and let me decide how much I liked it before making a commitment to a very time-consuming and expensive graduate program.

Jeffrey points to the flask being held by Stopani Barrios, who is wearing goggles and a lab coat.
Nayeli Stopani Barrios worked with researcher Chris Jeffrey in the chemistry department.

Nayeli Stopani Barrios

What got you interested in pursuing research as an undergraduate?

The summer before the Fall 2021 semester, I got the amazing opportunity to meet Dr. Christopher Jeffrey and get a tour of his lab. I have always had a love for science, so seeing a place where you can explore your curiosities really excited me. This caused me to grow an interest in becoming an undergraduate researcher. When Dr. Jeffrey reached out to me about the possibility of working in his lab, I jumped at the opportunity.

What about working on your faculty member’s research project were you most excited about?

I was mostly excited about learning new techniques that I have not been exposed to in my general science labs. I also like to consider myself a ‘pure scientist’, meaning I’m very curiosity driven. I was excited to be in an environment where I can explore my curiosities.

Has this research changed anything about what you want to pursue post-graduation?

Yes it has. Before I started research, I didn’t have any desire to go to graduate school. I personally thought that goal was unattainable, but after meeting my mentors and spending some time in the lab, I found the incentive to go to graduate school. I realized that with hard work and determination, I can do anything.

Landon Morrison (left) writes in a notebook while sitting next to Thomas White, who has a laptop in front of him. Graphs are drawn on a whiteboard in the background.
Landon Morrison's faculty mentor was Thomas White from the physics department.

Landon Morrison

What got you interested in pursuing research as an undergraduate?

I wanted to experience working on a current problem in physics. Undergraduate research is a great way to expand your skill set while also getting a preview of what working in physics is like.

What about working on your faculty member’s research project were you most excited about?

The concept of being able to replicate a physical experiment entirely inside a computer simulation was always intriguing to me.

Has this research changed anything about what you want to pursue post-graduation?

Definitely. I am looking into pursuing a degree in computational physics in graduate school.

Duncan Brown

What got you interested in pursuing research as an undergraduate?

I wasn't interested in research at all actually. I'm a member of the Honors College and they had us do a faculty interview. I just happened to choose my current advisor and after the interview was over he invited me to start doing some research with him.

What about working on your faculty member’s research project were you most excited about?

The thing I'm most excited about is the impacts I hope this will have. Life cycle assessments are the way that industries determine environmental impacts and to apply it to mining just makes sense. My advisor is also a leader in this field which helps a whole lot.

Has this research changed anything about what you want to pursue post-graduation?

A little bit. I want to go into education at some point in my life but it has definitely inspired me to try and pursue a career in environmental science as well.

Blake Shane sits at a computer with a graph on the screen. Christopher Kratt is pointing to the graph.
Blake Shane's mentor was Christopher Kratt in the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering.

Blake Shane

What got you interested in pursuing research as an undergraduate?

After taking an introductory course in geophysics, one of my instructors reached out to me with an opportunity to expand my exposure to techniques in the field through an undergraduate research grant. We figured out how we could help each other accomplish our goals and got to work.

What about working on your faculty member’s research project were you most excited about?

My research involved techniques which are relatively new to geophysics such as Structure from Motion, Distributed Acoustic Sensing, and Distributed Temperature Sensing. All of which function on principles which I find to be very interesting, and they have many exciting possibilities for future applications.

Has this research changed anything about what you want to pursue post-graduation?

At this point in time, my post-graduate plans remain unchanged. However, learning more about how new technology can be applied to studying subsurface structure has sparked some thought into a related graduate degree somewhere down the line.

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