BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Phil Tucciarone knew as a high school student
that he wanted to study nanotechnology; it was just a matter of
The Ivy League was an option, but so was the University at
Buffalo, where he enrolled in 2010. The decision paid off. Already
a published scientist, the rising junior and University Honors
College student is managing a university-funded research project
that focuses on -- you guessed it -- nanotechnology.
"UB is like an open slate," said Tucciarone, a chemical
engineering major from Washingtonville, N.Y. "Everyone has the
opportunity to do great work."
Whether assisting an English professor who is writing about
gender issues or performing research at medical device manufacturer
Greatbatch Inc., UB students are pushing the boundaries of a
traditional undergraduate education. While the classroom remains
the foundation of UB's educational experience, thousands of
undergraduates are working with faculty members or in the community
to better prepare themselves for the workplace.
It wasn't always this way.
Like many institutions of higher learning, research at UB was
typically limited to graduate students. That began to change last
decade when university leaders, after deciding that undergraduates
needed more opportunities outside the classroom, formed the Center
for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities, or CURCA.
Led by Tim Tryjankowski, CURCA spends $50,000 each year on
undergraduate research. The money is spread throughout UB's more
than 100 undergraduate programs. Students can receive up to $1,500
"Students utilizing CURCA are gaining hands-on experience that
will help them stand out as they apply for jobs, go to graduate
school or seek additional research grants," Tryjankowski said.
He highlighted CURCA's grant application process, which mimics
the National Science Foundation, one of the nation's primary
funding sources of academic research. Learning how to write a
competitive grant application is a unique and valuable aspect of
CURCA, Tryjankowski said.
Undergraduate research isn't limited to CURCA. Some students,
such as Mariel Schneggenburger, work through UB's Honors College.
The rising junior is doing mathematical research this summer at the
University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Other students, such as Kari Puma, secured internships with the
assistance of their professors. A rising senior and biomedical
engineering major, Puma helps researchers at Akron-based Greatbatch
develop tools that could aid people suffering from bone and joint
"It's really great," she said of the paid internship, "because
I'm really interested in orthopedics and sports medicine."
She is working with Mark Ehrensberger, assistant professor of
biomedical engineering and director of the university's orthopedic
Tucciarone, the chemical engineering major, is working with Mark
Swihart, professor of chemical and biological engineering, and
Folarin Erogbogbo, postdoctoral scholar and research assistant
professor of chemistry. Tucciarone is exploring silicon
nanoparticles' ability to create hydrogen as an alternative energy
source. This involves using powerful lasers inside Furnas Hall on
UB's North Campus.
He previously co-wrote a paper with the more experienced
"I guess I'm pretty lucky," Tucciarone said.