Two Penn State students honored with NIST-SURF Fellowship

Bichnevicius and Carrick to conduct 11-week summer research in Gaithersburg, Maryland

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Two Penn State students, Michael Bichnevicius and Cassandra Carrick, have been honored by the National Institute of Standards (NIST) and Technology’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). The NIST-SURF fellowship grants the awardees an opportunity to spend 11 weeks in Gaithersburg, Maryland, to conduct research alongside a NIST scientist or engineer.

NIST is one of the world’s leading research organizations and home to four Nobel Prize winners. The fellowship selects approximately 150 undergraduate students from across the nation each year and gives them the chance to conduct research at one of the nation’s premier institutions. Bichnevicius and Carrick will both gain valuable hands-on experience and work with cutting-edge technology in the Washington, D.C., area.

Bichnevicius, a sophomore and Schreyer Honors College scholar at University Park, is majoring in mechanical engineering and anticipating a 2019 graduation date. He commends the research environment at Penn State and the opportunities offered early on in undergraduate education.

“In particular, the College of Engineering Research Initiative gives students a chance to experience the research process from start to finish," said Bichnevicius. "More importantly, though, it's the friendliness, support, and dedication of Penn State faculty that make these types of programs worthwhile."

Stephen Lynch, professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering, is Bichnevicius’s academic adviser and research mentor. Lynch applauded the scholars’ research skills. “Michael has been one of the top undergraduate students in terms of his ability to understand and apply new material to produce results that are on par with graduate level students,” said Lynch. “He is very deserving of the NIST-SURF award. Through his work on our team, we received additional funding from Volvo. He is an integral player in supporting our ability to get funds research through industry contacts.”

Bichnevicius is looking forward to the unique and exciting experience that NIST-SURF provides. His summer research will focus on refrigerants, which are substances widely used in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration applications due to their thermodynamic properties. The current generation of refrigerants has significant global warming potential (GWP); along with NIST researchers, Bichnevicius will study low-GWP refrigerants to discover ways to use refrigerants without the negative environmental impacts. 

Carrick is a junior from El Paso, Texas, majoring in mathematics at Penn State Altoona and expecting to graduate in May 2018. She is president of the math club at Altoona and has been involved with Darin Zimmerman’s physics research group since the summer of 2016.

“Dr. Zimmerman has been an amazing mentor," said Carrick. "He has shown me how to conduct professional research, how to ask the tough questions and then seek the answers. I think that the undergraduate research program at Penn State is valuable and has been integral in helping me succeed outside of school."

Zimmerman holds Carrick’s research in high regard. “She has, almost single-handedly, been responsible for leading our computer simulation efforts performing finite-difference-time-domain simulations of the optical properties of nanoantenna arrays,” said Zimmerman. “What is most remarkable is her ability to dive into a project, learn from various resources, and think critically about what she's doing. She also communicates ideas very clearly and is able to think on her feet. Given her persistence, intelligence and resourcefulness, I have no doubt that she will reach the high academic and career goals she has set for herself.”

Carrick said she is honored to be accepted into the NIST-SURF program and excited to represent the University while gaining real-world experience. One of her career goals is to work with a federal research agency, and this opportunity provides the skills to reach that goal.

“I was very happy to hear that Cassandra was selected for a NIST-SURF fellowship," said David Hurtubise, Carrick’s academic adviser, who informed her of the fellowship. "She plans to go to graduate school in computational or applied mathematics, and I think her summer experience with NIST will be an excellent opportunity for her to develop skills that will help her to succeed in whatever Ph.D. program she decides to attend,” Through NIST-SURF, Carrick will be analyzing and calibrating face recognition algorithms for human performance experience.

To learn more about scholarships and fellowships opportunities, visit the University Fellowships Office website.

The University Fellowships Office is part of Penn State Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at