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ECE sophomore receives NIST fellowship

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ECE sophomore receives NIST fellowship

Electrical and computer engineering sophomore Andrew Haddock was awarded a prestigious summer undergraduate research fellowship from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Even while on winter break, electrical and computer engineering sophomore Andrew Haddock’s mind was on how to productively spend his summer vacation, searching online for possibilities.

“When I came across the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) Web site, the program looked incredible,” said Haddock. “I thought it was exactly what I should be doing.”

NIST’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program is cosponsored with the National Science Foundation. Students who are awarded the prestigious 11-week fellowships contribute to an ongoing research project in one of the national institute’s nine labs and also are treated to a diverse lecture series.

Haddock described the application process as lengthy. “I didn’t know what I was doing but I got lots of help from Monica Frank [an engineering grants and contracts specialist], Dr. Kwon and Dr. Nair,” said Haddock, explaining that the two electrical and computer engineering professors wrote letters of recommendation.

“I had to write a personal statement about why I wanted to do it, so I talked about my interests in neuroscience and modeling neurons in the brain,” Haddock said, referencing the work he is doing in electrical and computer engineering professor Satish Nair’s lab.

“When I was a freshman, Dr. Nair came and talked to my class and I knew then that I wanted to work with him,” Haddock explained.

Nair said that Andrew, a Discovery Scholar, came to his office a few days after his presentation and asked whether he would consider having him in his research group.

“Looking at his strong academic credentials, I told him that I would be happy to get him started, but he would need some additional course background before he could begin contributing to my group’s efforts with computer models of neurons and neuronal networks,” Nair said.  “Andrew jumped at the opportunity.”

Haddock began working with a doctoral student in Nair’s research group and read extensively about the biological mechanisms associated with neural plasticity in certain cortical circuits after chronic cocaine in rats.

“Andrew is working on coming up with models related to long term potentiation/depression in certain synapses,” said Nair. “In parallel, he will also be working on a hardware setup to measure how neurons fire in a snail brain. This is a great start for a sophomore student, and I have high expectations from him.”

Haddock submitted his application for the SURF program, and they responded within a week.

“I was in the computer lab doing my homework when I heard,” said Haddock, who immediately called his mother to share the news that he had been accepted as a summer fellow and would be working in NIST’s Boulder, Colo., facility. “She was really happy, not only for me, but because her entire family lives in Colorado and it gives her an excuse to visit,” he said. Both of Haddock’s parents are civil engineers by training.

“I want to get my feet wet on what I intend to do, to surround myself with people who are dong the research that I want to be doing,” Haddock said. “I don’t just want to advance technology with my work. I want it to be more about the human condition.”

“It is a quite honor to receive the fellowship,” said Kwon. “It will provide an opportunity for him to work directly with scientists in many advanced science fields. His case can be a good role model for students to set their future goals at an earlier stage.”

Haddock is a member of Tau Beta Pi and Eta Kappa Nu honor societies, and also participates in the college’s Lego Robotics program, visiting in the fourth and fifth grade classrooms at Columbia’s West Boulevard Elementary School one afternoon each week.

“If you really want to do something, you should just try,” advised Haddock. “This fellowship is a great place for me to start.”

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