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Students go behind the scenes in CEE’s first research lab open house

The Graduate Student Advisory Council (GSAC) and Undergraduate Student Advisory Council (USAC) hosted the very first research lab open house at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s Graduate Student Advisory Council (GSAC) and Undergraduate Student Advisory Council (USAC) hosted the department’s first research lab open house on January 25th, 2019. The event included a networking lunch with faculty and students, and tours and scavenger hunts in the research labs.

GSAC and USAC created the event because they saw that undergraduate students have a lot to gain from exposure to higher-level academic endeavors of the CEE faculty. The research lab open house’s main goals were to help undergraduate students engage with faculty and graduate students actively involved in research, and to help them decide if Civil and Environmental Engineering is right for them. There were also 12 labs open in GGB and EWRE for the students to tour.

“Our department is doing so much innovative, cutting edge research and it’s important that we keep undergraduates in the loop,” said PhD student Cassandra Champagne, one of the event planners. “It provides opportunities for undergraduates to get involved with the research that our labs are conducting, it increases interest in graduate studies, and it gives students a more well-rounded idea of what civil engineering is because a lot of the research we are doing is not covered in traditional courses.”

At the open house, 73 students toured 12 labs, including the Soil Dynamics Lab, Structures Lab, Real Time Water Systems Lab, and Michigan Traffic Lab. During the lab tours, faculty and graduate students demonstrated their research and answered questions for the undergraduate students. There was also a scavenger hunt for the undergraduate students in the lab tours.

CEE undergraduate student Erik Anderson participated in the event and also thought it was especially beneficial to undergraduate students. “I think my favorite part of the open house was getting a chance to see labs that I normally wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see as an undergraduate student,” said Anderson. “It really allowed me to get a grasp on the kind of research our department does. There is a wide range of applications within the department that I wouldn’t have thought of.”

Champagne also noted, “The participants that I personally spoke with after the event told me that they really enjoyed the tours. If anything, they wish they could have visited more labs!  We also received positive feedback from faculty and graduate students who were excited to show off their labs.”

The department plans to repeat this event annually to keep undergraduate students informed about the wide range of research happening in Civil and Environmental Engineering.

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Toy truck stuck in sandbox with water
Open house guests shown lab equipment
Lab material presented to open house participants
Students use virtual reality goggles to interact with surroundings
A model of what the student sees inside the virtual reality goggles
Open house guests shown interactive shapes


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Mason Hinawi

Marketing Communications Specialist
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering