Research Rookies gives undergrads research experience right out of the gate

Joe Petsinger

Northern Illinois University’s Research Rookies program allows first- and second-year undergraduates and first-semester transfer students to work with faculty to conduct a research project in their major field of study.

Joseph Petsigner, a first-semester transfer in the engineering technology program, recently participated in Research Rookies alongside mechanical engineering Associate Professor Federico Sciammarella. Petsinger is pursuing an engineering technology degree with an emphasis in industrial management and technology.

“Around age nine, I started designing vehicles in a notebook and building tennis ball launchers,” he said. With most of his family attending NIU, he decided to apply to the engineering technology program, where he learned about Research Rookies.

“I applied because I saw that I could potentially work in a department relevant to my major and career path,” he said. “The research that I am doing now has provided me with information and experience that is extremely rare in the manufacturing industry.”

Petsinger is researching direct energy deposition for metal materials in additive manufacturing.

“Basically, you have a laser beam shooting downwards onto a table and you have a few nozzles that spray metal powder at the beam to melt it into little beads that build up layer by layer into a three-dimensional part,” he said.

He is interested in finding the optimal ratio between travel and powder flow rate to produce the best material properties in terms of porosity, hardness, grain structure and height-to-depth ratio.

“I was also learning how to use the lab by helping the team out with other research projects – mostly preparing samples of printed parts and performing analysis tests on them,” he said.

Additive manufacturing is one of the industries Petsinger is interested in entering. His research with Sciammarella gave him indispensable experience and an inside look at the industry.

“NIU is a wonderful place to study engineering and technology,” he said. “There are so many cool clubs and competitions to partake in; I wish I had time to do them all! So many of the instructors take a hands-on approach and I have learned so much after only one semester here.”

Electrical engineering student Kwaku Agyemang works with Assistant Professor Benedito Fonseca on a research project using infrared cameras to prevent heat stroke in marathon runners.
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