First Generation Plasma Thruster
Jim Browning – ECE Associate Professor
Will Hughes – MSE Research
Offering Depth & Balance
Student demand has made the Boise State University College of Engineering one of the fastest growing colleges on campus. We serve over 2000 students and play a critical role in pursuing scientific and educational research for the benefit of society, our economy, and environment. This is a college of problem solvers and makers. Here faculty and students explore how to leverage computer science, electrical and mechanical engineering, the science of materials, and the civil engineering and construction management expertise we depend upon to build roads, bridges, and buildings. We also examine the interplay between the natural and built environment, and how to optimize organizational and system performance. Educational research has included studies on attracting more students to science and engineering, removing teaching obstacles, and closing the performance gap between graduating students and first-year workers. The college maintains a balanced commitment to high quality research and education. In practical terms, this means we offer:
Benefits for Both Graduate and Undergraduate Students
As we grow, the college is actively increasing graduate program offerings. At the same time, we serve a large and valued undergraduate population. Therefore, we take a balanced approach to research and education that puts an unshakeable focus on student learning and prioritizes both undergraduate education as well as research faculty and graduate students. Except for a small number of faculty members devoted exclusively to research, all other college faculty commit equally to teaching and research, so students have ongoing opportunities to interact and often to collaborate in classrooms, conferences, publications, and research. We have a long history of providing substantive research opportunities to both undergraduate and graduate students, and it has proven a boon both to advancing research as well as to keeping students engaged, in school, and well positioned for a range of advanced educational opportunities. In 2011, federally- and state-funded sponsored projects contributed 2.5 million dollars specifically to Boise State student salaries, paying nearly a quarter of these salaries, or approximately 543 mostly undergraduate student researchers. And for the fifth year in a row, a Boise State student research team was chosen to participate in NASA’s highly selective Microgravity university program.
Energized and Current Faculty
By conducting scientific and educational research, and by speaking, writing, attending conferences, and engaging with industry and other community partners, faculty members are much more than content experts in their fields of study. Not only can they help students understand aspects of electrical or biomedical engineering, for example, but as domain participants and leaders, they can bring their energy and enthusiasm to the classroom, greatly enrich what you can find in a textbook, and highlight breaking trends. Just as importantly, they can also help students recognize the value and relevance that engineering brings to addressing the very real problems we face as a nation and a world, and how engineers contribute to our regional and national security and economy.
Funding helps our researchers to do their work. Since opening our doors in 1997, College of Engineering researchers have been awarded grant funding totaling over $30 million. These funding levels have enabled faculty to establish world-class research programs in areas ranging from satellite propulsion to molecular electronics. A variety of public and private sources provide such funding, among them the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Aviation Administration, National Aeronautic and Space Administration, Google, and a host of local and regional partners (we list many recent funding partners on the College of Engineering Honor Roll of Givers page).
Opportunities for Interdisciplinary Research
Interdisciplinary study is a significant aspect of remaining current and enriches both education and research. Faculty members across our seven college departments frequently work together, across campus, and with researchers at other universities and in other countries. For example, more than 20 faculty members from departments in the College of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences teach in our most recently added doctoral program in Materials Science & Engineering. Faculty also participate as researchers in interdisciplinary centers such as the Center for Orthopaedic and Biomechanics Research
, and the Center for Advanced Energy Studies
, a public/private partnership between Boise State, the University of Idaho, Idaho State University, private industry, and the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). We believe this cross-pollination benefits students and sets realistic expectations for students about how graduates are expected to work in multi-disciplinary settings.
Boise State demonstrates its commitment to balanced research and education through mechanisms that support all its colleges, among them the Undergraduate Studies
unit, and our Division of Research & Economic Development
. Undergraduate Studies (1) offers robust student research opportunity and funding information
, (2) oversees STEM Station
, to support and engage faculty, students, and research collaborators in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines, and (3) oversees the Center for Teaching and Learning
, which provides faculty with rich, ongoing education on how to teach well.
The Division of Research and Economic Development helps the university identify interdisciplinary research opportunities and obtain necessary equipment and facilities. For example, its Distinguished Educator in Residence and former NASA astronaut and teacher, Barbara Morgan, helps cultivate local and national opportunities. Another example is the June, 2011 opening of the university’s most recent engineering facility, the $22 million dollar Environmental Research Building. This is a multidisciplinary hub housing Civil Engineering, Community and Regional Planning, Geosciences, Political Science, and Public Policy & Administration. Together, faculty from several colleges now work together to support a Western agenda on the environment, transportation, water, land use, and community and regional planning.
To Learn More
While Boise State supports a wide variety of research, it has identified five particular university-wide strengths where the university can make substantive impacts. Our Division of Research & Economic Development provides fact sheets about each. Since College of Engineering faculty and students contribute in some way to each strength, the strengths also enable us to introduce research in each department. After reading this introduction, we encourage you to explore department pages to learn more about the full range of College of Engineering research. To learn about:
Novel Materials, begin with our Materials Science & Engineering Department
Novel materials research focuses on improving the performance of materials such as plastics, metals and ceramics by manipulating their structures to identify new properties for a wide range of products and applications. Developing novel materials with unique properties is critical to advances in medicine, energy, microelectronics, aeronautics and many other fields. TheMaterials Science & Engineering department is central to novel materials research. In addition, given the importance of materials selection, a number of researchers in our other college departments incorporate novel materials.
Sensor Development, begin with our Electrical & Computer Engineering Department
The ability to quickly and accurately detect trace amounts of chemicals, bacteria, radioactive materials or viruses in air, water or soil is key to addressing many security, environmental and health issues. Boise State is on the forefront of efforts to fabricate new sensors that measure specific physical or chemical conditions. Sensors convert measurements into analog or digital signals for people or other instruments to interpret. The Electrical & Computer Engineering department leads in this area.
Nanoelectronics and Integrated Systems, three of our departments can help you begin
This research area could revolutionize how computers store information and initiate development of a broad range of new microelectronics products. Nanoelectronics addresses the technology of electronic devices on a nanoscale level, generally defined as from 1–100 nanometers. (A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, and a sheet of paper about 100,000 nanometers thick.) At a nanoscale level, materials can exhibit unusual physical, chemical and biological properties that we can harness to develop electronic devices with new or expanded capabilities. The Computer Science, Electrical & Computer Engineering, and Materials Science & Engineering departments combine interests in this arena.
Geochemistry and Geophysics, two departments collaborate with Geoscientists
Geochemistry involves investigation of the chemical composition of the Earth by using precise instrumentation and advanced methodologies to analyze samples. Geophysics uses physical principles to study properties of the earth, including investigating the shallow subsurface using non-invasive techniques such as sound, seismic and electromagnetics. This research has applications for everything from cleaning up oil spills and identifying the sources of surface water pollution, to understanding the consequences of climate change. Many of our Civil Engineering department researchers conduct geophysics research in precisely these areas, often in collaboration with Geosciece Department faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences. Construction Management department faculty also maintain an interest in the implications of geophysics for construction policy and processes.
Health, Public and Energy Policy, multiple departments and centers can help
Economic development, access to health care, strong civic leadership and a clean environment affect quality of life locally and nationally. Boise State oversees a broad array of research programs and services that provide local, regional and national policymakers, citizens and agencies with the information and skills they need to advance and protect citizen interests. Policy research addresses the laws plans, actions and behaviors of government and in this case its health resources and priorities. The college’s Environmental Research Building is central to this discussion as it has brought five departments from multiple university colleges together under one roof to support a Western agenda on the environment, transportation, water, land use, and community and regional planning.
The university Public Policy Center and Center for Advanced Energy Studiesare also central to these discussions. Mechanical & Biomedical Engineering department faculty member John Gardner directs the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, and Materials Science & Engineering department faculty member Darryl Butt is the Associate Director. In addition, many Civil Engineering department faculty are particularly active in addressing issues affecting the public good. The fact sheet for this research strength also describes a research collaboration between faculty in the Community and Regional Planning, Construction Management, and Instructional & Performance Technology departments. Faculty in the latter are systems analysts who often address the implications of technology choices and other factors affecting human performance, particularly in organizational settings (their department name will change to Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning, in the fall of 2013).