LU Students expand their knowledge and opportunities through SURF

In fall of 2021, the Office of Undergraduate Research celebrated the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship 2021 cohort with the first SURF Symposium. The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship at Lamar University provides students with the resources to conduct research on a particular topic related to their area of study. As the program prepares to welcome a new cohort, 2021 SURF Research Fellows Alexander Bahrim, Kalen Baker and Melissa Tan reflect on their experiences with undergraduate research at Lamar University.

Alexander Bahrim | “Development and assessment of hardware model for studying the mechanism of Regenerative Braking System”

alexander-bahrimAlexander Bahrim, electrical engineering major, conducted research significant to the popular topic of electric vehicles. His project titled “Development and assessment of hardware model for studying the mechanism of Regenerative Braking System” was centered on regenerative braking systems and how to make them more efficient in energy conservation. His experiments produced results that surpassed expectations for the efficiency of the systems, proving that electric vehicles can meet real-world demands. In a time where demand for eco-friendly solutions is increasing, this project is surely relevant to the industry.

“I chose this topic because I am passionate about innovation and discovery in Electrical Engineering while also making an environmentally friendly positive impact,” Alexander said.

He initially decided to apply for the research fellowship to learn more about what he was already studying. He later discovered that research would not only give him hands-on practice but expand his experience and connections inside and outside of the university.
Dr. Cristian Bahrim, professor of physics and Alexander’s mentor said, “The project is having significance in the electric car’s industry, and I believe will interest many people in the creative and development branch of companies which produce electric vehicles.”
Alexander is currently a Reaud Honors student, a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, and a College of Engineering student ambassador. He is working part-time as an automation engineer at Champion Technology Services in Houston with an offer to continue full-time once he completes his degree. Alexander said this position is “l in large part due to the experience that OUR provided with SURF.”

Kalen Baker | “Theoretical Research on Sintering of Metals based on Results of Molecular Simulations”

kalen bakerSintering is the fusing of powdered material into a single object at a relatively low temperature which allows for energy conservation. Sintering provides an important means of coating materials here in the Beaumont and Houston area and a variety of ceramic, metallic, and polymer substances for everyday life.
Kalen Baker, mechanical engineering major, chose this topic because of his interest in metal processing. He also realized that sintering has not been studied extensively, so his research focused on studying the underlying process of sintering and developing a better understanding of it.

“His work is potentially transformative in the development of sintering technology as well as 3D metal printing,” says Dr. Ping He, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and Baker’s faculty mentor.

Throughout his research, Baker ran hundreds of simulations, researched many metal types, and compared several pieces of data. Baker said he highly enjoyed participating in research and was thankful that it gave him a project during the months of the COVID-19 isolation efforts.

“Working for the OUR has been a great time, it has provided resources to make conducting research at LU enjoyable,” Baker said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to present what I have worked on because sometimes the questions you’re asked gives ideas that you otherwise wouldn’t have thought about,” he Baker.

Melissa Tan | “Studying the Extracellular Polymeric Substances of Galdieria sulphuraria As Flocculation Aid for Improving Algal Harvesting Efficiency”

melissa-tanMicroalgae are a promising source of biodiesel, a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels. Algae secrete a biopolymer that has many uses, one being that it can aid in harvesting micro algal biomass through flocculation. Civil and environmental engineering major Melissa Tan’s research set out to reduce the costs of harvesting micro algal biomass.

“One specific application of these biomolecules lies in the flocculation processes for algal separation. In this study, EPS was extracted from the microalga Galdieria sulphuraria, which is then characterized for potential biomolecules and then used for flocculation experimentation of the same algae to assess the feasibility of using the EPS to improve algal harvesting efficiency,” Tan said.

This process is more cost efficient and consumes less energy than those of centrifugation and filtration. Tan’s research is another study that can have significant impact on the need for more sustainable energy and practices. 

“This experience has been like no other, and the best part of this research project was working as a team to obtain results,” she said. “My mentor, Dr. Thinesh, was helpful in every way possible as he guided me throughout this project. This project also would not have been possible without the support of OUR at Lamar. This research project has helped me broaden my future educational and career paths.”

“I had the pleasure to identify and select Melissa from my freshman class last Fall and introduced her to undergraduate student research opportunities at LU, said Dr. Tinesh Selvaratnam, Tan’s mentor and assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. “In just two semesters, Melissa has gotten two undergraduate research scholarships and is an integral part of my research lab,”.  

For more information on the Undergraduate Research Fellowship or the Office of Undergraduate Research, visit