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UMD McNair Scholar

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The Composition of Graduate School Success

Luc (right) and his roommate from the McNair program
Luc (right), with his roommate and fellow McNair scholar and chemistry researcher Arafat Akinlabi.

Understanding the Materials of Daily Life

McNair scholar and UMD mechanical engineer major Luc Desroches spent his summer with U of M faculty to get ready for graduate school. He worked with professor Mihai Marasteanu and other researchers at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus for 10 weeks. “I was there from mid-June through mid-August. It was a fantastic experience," Desroches said. "The faculty treated me as an equal, even though they had so much more experience than I did. It wasn’t them telling me what to do — it was as though we were colleagues working together and researching a problem that was new to both of us.”

Asphalt Research

The focus of Desroches' research was the chemical makeup of asphalt binder, the adhesive material that holds asphalt mixtures together.

Asphalt binder is mixed into pavement and used in other structures like bridges, roads, and buildings. “My research was focused on Poisson’s Ratio: how a material maintains volume under different stresses. The topic wasn’t exactly groundbreaking," Desroches said. "We won’t wake up tomorrow with super-roads that never deteriorate or anything like that. It was a small step in the right direction towards understanding the materials we use so much in our daily lives.”

Portfolio Development

Research wasn’t the only thing on Desroches’ plate. As part of the 10-week program, which ran from mid-June through mid-August, McNair scholars on the U of M campus attended graduate school preparation seminars. Students met weekly and discussed aspects of grad school with guest speakers. Topics discussed included curriculum vitaes, personal statements, and assembling a grad school portfolio.

Desroches is grateful for his experience with the McNair program. “It was nice to be a part of this scholarship in the summer after my junior year— most people become McNair scholars as their time as an undergraduate is ending. I have an extra year to build my portfolio upon an already well-known scholarship. I’m very thankful.”

McNair Scholars

The McNair scholarship, named after scientist and astronaut Ronald E. McNair, is intended to preparing students for graduate school. Geared for “college students from disadvantaged backgrounds who have demonstrated strong academic potential,” most McNair scholars are low-income, first-generation students, or those from racial and ethnic groups traditionally underrepresented in graduate study.

Written by Zach Lunderberg, October 2014.

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