SCC Student Selected for Prestigious NSF Research Experience Program

From SCC News

Just looking at Gavin Fowler-Ramsey, it’s hard to believe he’s old enough to be graduating from Somerset Community College (SCC) in May. But when you ask him about what he did last summer, there is no question that this young man is more than qualified.

“The (project) I worked on was for cancer research,” he says. “It’s using a microfluidic device combined with ultrasound technology to help deliver nutrients and different types of DNA to cells to fight the cancer.”

Fowler-Ramsey was one of around 80 students from across the country selected to take part in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) project, which is funded by the National Science Foundation. Nine colleges from across the country accepted students for the 10-week program.

At the University of Louisville, where Fowler-Ramsey did his research, he was one of only 10 students selected from the 100 or so who applied. The SCC student was joined there by students from Purdue University, University of Utah, University of Pennsylvania, and University of California, Berkeley.

U of L’s REU attracted the Lincoln County resident because it trains students in the field of Advanced Manufacturing, with a special emphasis on micro/nano-manufacturing and additive manufacturing (3D printing). At SCC, Fowler Ramsey, is working toward an Associate in Science degree with a focus on pre-engineering. He will also earn a 3D Printing Technology certificate.

It was Eric Wooldridge, an SCC professor over the Advanced Manufacturing 3D program, who told Fowler-Ramsey about the REU program and encouraged him to apply. “The REU is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for any of our students in the pre-engineering program that want to jump-start both their educational and professional career.” Wooldridge said. “It enhances their understanding of how cool technology, math, and science intersect. It gives them a chance to see what cutting edge research can look like, and most importantly it helps them to network and make tremendous connections that will pay off significantly in a couple of years.”

“Working with a U of L professor and learning “how to make these microfluidic devices … was pretty cool,” Fowler-Ramsey says. He noted that he was familiar with the technology because “I’ve done some research here with Eric”.

In his classes at SCC, Fowler-Ramsey said he “learned a lot about design and that’s actually part of what I did for my project. I designed a new system for the cellular delivery from that he (the professor) was doing. I was making a device to be 3D printed, to be used using different materials. A lot of the design advice I learned from Eric and a bunch of techniques I used I learned (at SCC).”

Wooldridge said that “the REU was something different and wasn’t part of Gavin’s plans, yet because he took that risk and seized the opportunity, he has now experienced and accomplished things that will really set him apart from his peers and future competitors.”

The program concluded in August with a convocation and ending ceremony where Fowler-Ramsey “had a poster presentation as well as a PowerPoint presentation.”

After graduating from SCC, the student says he plans “on transferring to UK … or maybe Louisville. I’ve applied to both.” And while UK was his first pick, he says his time with the REU program has “definitely made me think of Louisville.” “I went to Louisville and didn’t know what to expect but I really enjoyed the city, and the campus is pretty neat as well,” he said. “I made quite a few friends there.”

No matter which university Fowler-Ramsey decides to attend after SCC he has set his sights on becoming “a civil engineer.”

“I thought about doing research in the future, it’s really interesting, but I felt like I’d rather go an actual job,” he says. “I either want to work with construction 3D printing or just go into a civil engineering company.”

Wooldridge says that Fowler-Ramsey has what it takes to be successful no matter what career direction he decides.

“He is like many of our pre-engineering students, he is top shelf,” the professor said. “He understands that hard work is the key to engineering just as much as the foundational knowledge in math and science.”

But before Fowler-Ramsey begins his university studies, he would like to take advantage of one more research opportunity.

“The 80 kids who got the REU (last summer) can apply for a second one — overseas in Japan,” he says. “It’s doing similar stuff … working with a professor on their project at a university.”

He says that studying in Japan would be “super cool,” and that he has “just gotten done with my application.” Thinking positively, the always prepared student says he already has his passport and is ready to go.