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Supporting the Undergraduate Experience One Research Award at a Time

Providing opportunities for students to engage in undergraduate research allows them to become better problem solvers, thinkers, and leaders. Thanks to the generosity of a local Tallahassee couple, the undergraduate experience for a FAMU-FSU College of Engineering student has become much more meaningful.

"Awards such as the Jim & Sandy Undergraduate Research Award, serve as motivators not only to keep going, but to always give your best. Similarly, they aid in the realization that the research conducted has a future, and that every little thing we do as undergraduate research assistants, is essential and pivotal to the big picture." - Sofia Garcia

Jim and Sandy Dafoe initially visited FSU's High Performance Materials Institute in 2015. They were impressed with the quality of students that were a part of the Institute, as well as the research being produced. Inspired by a follow-up visit, and coupled with the funding priorities of the College of Engineering, the Dafoe's agreed to fund an opportunity for an undergraduate student to conduct research at one of the centers in Innovation Park.

This past fall semester, the inaugural Jim and Sandy Dafoe Undergraduate Research Award was presented to Sofia Garcia, a senior majoring in Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering.

Sofia is currently an undergraduate research assistant at the High Performance Materials Institute. Working under the supervision of Center Director, Dr. Richard Liang and researcher, Dr. Ayou Hao - Sofia says it has been a "tremendous experience" for her. Not only does Sofia get to work alongside leading faculty, she is also able to fully immerse herself in experiential learning. Sofia's research is focused on obtaining the mechanical properties that a single carbon nanotube holds, throughout an entire network of nanotubes, with the idea of creating a very strong material that is also very lightweight. Applications of her research can benefit the aerospace industry.

Left-right, Richard Liang, Professor Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering, Dean J. Murray Gibson, Jim and Sandy Dafoe, center, Sofia Garcia, and Frank Allen, IME Research Information Coordinator, at the 2016 Donors-Recipients Scholarship Event.

Through the private philanthropy of two people who value education and support the mission of the College, Sofia's undergraduate experience is bound to be unforgettable. The College is incredibly grateful to Jim and Sandy, and welcomes the opportunity for others to participate in funding additional undergraduate research opportunities.

If you are interested in learning more about providing funding for undergraduate research awards, or other ways to support the College of Engineering, please feel free to contact Sarishni P. Patel, Director of Development, at or (850) 410-6570.