Computer Engineering major, MARC Fellow, Class of '06
Prof. Alex Doboli
Electrical & Computer Engineering
Having faculty members, PhD scientists listening to me and giving their feedback on how I present.. . it's been helpful, definitely! . . It definitely improved my communication skills, my presentation skills. I gained a lot. I would want other students to gain from it.
Interview: read more >>
Researcher of the Month
Pierre Xavier does not let good opportunities pass by! Pierre first became familiar with SB while participating in a summer 2000 research program at the Garcia MRSEC while still a high school student in nearby Centereach. Pierre had moved to Long Island at age 14, only several years earlier, from his birthplace, Haiti. In 2002, after spending his first year of college at Steven's Institute of Technology in New Jersey, Pierre decided to return back to Stony Brook as a transfer student and has felt at home ever since — thriving not only in the demanding CEAS environment, but in the acronym*-abundant world at SBU (*see below!)
Pierre is currently a fellow in the NIH-sponsored MARC program offered through LIGASE under the directorship of Professor David Bynum; serves as President of the student club MEAS; is involved with the CSTEP and LSAMP outreach programs offered though Technology and Society; and is also affiliated with such professional organizations as NSBE and SHPE. He has presented his research at off-campus CSTEP and NSBE conferences; and at regional conferences here at SBU, including AGEP's A Gathering of Science Scholars. Just this fall, Pierre was asked by Prof. Henry White, a Materials Science & Engineering Department faculty advisor to MEAS, and a long time mentor to Pierre, to moderate and present at the Mid-Atlantic ASEE Conference held at the Wang Center, where Pierre spoke about his commitment to MEAS. In 2004, Pierre was selected as a scholar for a competitive Educational Partership Program (EPP) sponsored by NOAA: through this program, Pierre spent the summer of 2004 working at NOAA headquarters in Silver Springs, Maryland on LIDAR technology with Dr. Chris Parrish, a scientist in the National Ocean Service and NGS Remote Sensing Research Group; in the summer of 2005, Pierre then became acquainted with FAD or Fish Aggregating Devices while working in the enjoyable surroundings of Scripps Institute, La Jolla, California, on a project mentored by research oceangrapher Dr. Jules Jaffe. The project involved programming and controlling the power cycle of the FAD system. Pierre is currently being mentored by Prof. Alex Doboli in ECE on a senior engineering project on wireless sensory networks on an embedded platform, something he began working on approximately one year ago and now collaborates with several other classmates as part of a senior engineering design project. The aim of this project is to develop a technology to monitor the water quality of ocean & river water, and transfer the data (regarding salinity, pH, etc. ) wirelessly. Pierre also plans to present a poster on the work he did last summer at Scripps Institute at several upcoming conferences off-campus, as well as the upcoming URECA Celebration held at the SAC on the last Wednesday in April. Pierre is a strong advocate of the importance of networking, something which he is committed to sharing with fellow students in the various clubs and organizations with which he is involved. Below are some excerpts shared from his interview with Karen Kernan, URECA Director .
Karen: How did you first get involved with the MARC program?
Pierre:I got into MARC in fall 2004. I knew about MARC since fall of 2003. But at the time I was a sophomore. I talked to Dr. Bynum who was the director of the program. And I didn't get in for about a year. It was hard for me to get a research advisor. That's a requirement of the program. I knew about MARC from one of the graduate students, a PhD student from Materials Science & Engineering Dept. He was a MARC recipient. He told me about Dr. Bynum and the MARC program, that it's a very, very good program, it helps you get into graduate school. . . Ever since, I always wanted to join. In 2003, I tried and I didn't get in. In 2004, I actually got in.
Has being in the MARC program helped you, apart from the financial support?
It definitely increased my confidence. Because first of all I got accepted. Second of all, the students that I'm around. . . I knew some of them. I always knew they were really intelligent. And just being in the environment, having the opportunity to do my presentation, to have those students listen to me and I listen to them. . . having faculty members, PhD scientists listening to me and giving their feedback on how I present, it's been helpful, definitely! It definitely improved my communication skills, my presentation skills. I gained a lot. I would want other students to gain from it.
Where did you find out about the NOAA program which has led to such great summer research experiences?
In January 2004, I went to a conference — a SHEP conference. A representative approached me and told me about it and said: "Do you want to apply for the fellowship?" I'd gone to the conference to look for jobs and internships. I knew SHEP every year does a national NTCC technical career conference, and I always wanted to go there. . . I wasn't going to go: It was a lot of money, I had to buy the plane ticket. Plus I had to register. The plane was $220; plus the registration was $200. I thought . . .I don't have that money . . .In the end, my brother paid half of it, actually.
Have the research opportunities you had through the NOAA program enhanced your education?
Definitely, it has enhanced my education a lot. I could give you a good example: with my NOAA project, the first one, I used the knowledge that I acquired from school, programming Java. And when I went through the project I wrote a program in Java to interpolate a large size of geographic mapping data. So that's the knowledge that I used. But at the same time, I learned a lot about different software. I learned a very interesting technology-which is LIDAR. So I learned a lot. And because I used the skills that I learned from classes and applied to different applications. . . it was very good.
The second [summer internship, last summer]..that was the one that I really liked the most. Being in San Diego, it was so beautiful there — right there by the Pacific Ocean. They have the best beaches there. . . very good weather. Not only did I like the area. . . but what I was doing was very nice. The project that I was working on was a very good project because everything that I did was brand new to me. So everything I did was new knowledge, even the system I was working on. I didn't know anything about it.. . the program that I was writing, I didn't know anything about it. I had to learn it. Everything—the equipment that I was using—was new. I had very good results.
What has been your most frustrating experience with research?
My first research experience [at NOAA] was frustrating. Time was running out, and I wasn't getting the proper results that I wanted to get. The last week, I was in the building for that Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I was there all weekend, generating my results. . .it was very frustrating, very frustrating. I had to write the program. I was working with large size data. It took about 2 days before I got my results. . . and I had [only] days left to get my results. So I was there for the whole weekend. Finally, though, I had what I was looking for, and everything was very good.
What's the most unusual experience you've had with research?
I could give you a funny one. But it was a good experience, involving the project that I did in Scripps. I was working with this electronic board that had the microprocessor. While I was doing some testing, I had some long wires. I connected wires from the electronic board to the different equipment to simulate data, to generate data. By mistake, a wire got connected to high voltage of different equipment. From moving the board around, it connected to the high voltage. . . and the whole thing just blew up. I was scared to come back to the lab. . . everybody was OK though. It gives you a whole different perspective on safety. And I learned: do not use long wires, use short ones!
What would be your advice for fellow students?
Get involved with different student clubs. I knew so much—from being active on campus, being involved. I'm so busy with school. I knew a lot about what was going on. . . about opportunities. Don't just go to class and go back to your room and do homework. Just about every [MEAS] meeting that I have, I always tell students: be involved, because there's so much you can learn and find out. I use myself as an example. Also networking. I knew about MARC from a PhD in Materials Science and from just knowing him. Look, that's just a prime example of how important it is to network, to be involved. I've been with MEAS for 2 years. And my goal definitely is to expose the members with different opportunities, with research internships, company internships. Also now we're focusing on giving the members knowledge about networking, how to network. I would want other students to gain from it. That's why I would like you to speak about URECA at one of my meetings.
I'd be happy to speak about URECA research opportunities! Anything else you'd like to add?
What I would like to say to other students is that it's very important to be involved, and not to be lazy. Sometimes even myself, when I see opportunities coming to me, I tend to get a little lazy. But then I think, let me make that little effort, at least I have a chance.. it didn't just pass by and I made no effort.
AGEP - Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate
ASEE - American Society for Engineering Education
CEAS - College of Engineering & Applied Sciences
C-STEP-Collegiate Science & Technology Entry Program
EPP - Educational Partnership Program
ECE - Electrical & Computer Engineering
FAD - Fish Aggregating Devices
L-SAMP - Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation
LIDAR - LIght Detection and Ranging
LIGASE - Long Island Group Advancing Science Education
MARC - Minority Access to Research Careers
MEAS - Minorities in Engineering & Applied Sciences
MRSEC - Materials Research Science & Engineering Center
NGS - National Geodetic Survey
NIH - National Institutes of Health
NOAA - National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration
NSBE - National Society of Black Engineers
SAC - Student Activities Center
SBU - Stony Brook University
SHEP - Society of Hispanic Engineering Professionals
URECA - Undergraduate Research & Creative Activities