Q & A with ISUR (Illinois Scholars Undergraduate Research Program)

Research is a valuable, interesting, and vital part of the undergraduate experience for many Grainger engineers. The Grainger College of Engineering’s Illinois Scholars Undergraduate Research Program (ISUR) exposes students to science and engineering research during the school year through the learning-by-apprenticeship model, preparing them for graduate school and STEM careers.

Students work closely with graduate student or postdoctoral mentors and faculty sponsors on research projects during the fall and spring semesters, presenting their research during the annual ISUR poster expo each spring. HCESC simulation engineer Anusha Muralidharan is one such mentor, working with four students on a project in health technology.

We spoke with Anusha and her students about their experience in the ISUR program: Kaviya Sudhir (sophomore, bioengineering), Sanjana Chunduri, Saloni Garg, and Trisha Yadav (all sophmores, computer engineering).

How and why did you get involved with ISUR?

AM: These students approached HCESC in search of a research mentor. Our director, Dr. Kesavadas, connected me with these students. Their research idea sounded very interesting, so we applied to the ISUR program.

KS, SC, SG, & TY: We found this program through The Grainger College of Engineering’s newsletters. ISUR interested us because of the opportunity to learn a variety of research topics through the seminar class, along with the mentoring we would receive as a result.

What project you are working on?

KS, SC, SG, & TY: We are working as a team of four students to develop a continuously-monitoring wearable device that screens for early-onset sepsis development. We have been working with different kinds of sensors to create a device that measures all of the symptoms that could lead to sepsis.

Has your work been impacted by COVID-19? How have you continued to make progress despite the pandemic?

KS, SC, SG, & TY: While our work was initially stunted when we moved virtually, we have been able to work with zoom meetings. Because of the ability to not meet in person, we spent first semester focusing more on literature research which is done virtually. 

How is this experience preparing you for your future careers?

KS, SC, SG, & TY: This experience is preparing us for our careers in conducting literature and technical research. Going through the customer discovery process while conducting this research will not only sharpen our analytical thinking skills but will also prepare us for whatever path we decide to pursue in the future – whether this is continuing research, going into the start-up ecosystem, or working in industry.

What’s been the most valuable part of this experience for you?

AM: This program is a wonderful opportunity to help and guide students solve interesting clinical problems. All four students are enthusiastic, motivated, and initiating contact. As a mentor my experience with the mentees has been great so far. 

KS, SC, SG, & TY: The most valuable part of this experience for us is having an amazing mentor to help us through the process. Our mentor is an experienced researcher who has helped us navigate the prototyping process. This program has also given us valuable clinical connections, which has been extremely helpful.

Thank you to Anusha, Kaviya, Sanjana, Saloni, and Trisha for sharing their experiences! Visit isur.engineering.illinois.edu to learn more about the program and see how you can get involved.