Hands-on learning leads engineering student to real-world impact

When Gerald O’Neill decided to pursue engineering as an undergraduate, he primarily saw it as a way to “make it through and get a degree.” However, he soon discovered that the field offered him an opportunity to fuel his wonder.

“Going into my undergraduate experience, I assumed that even if I equipped myself well, I would simply enter the engineering industry and follow the standard career path. Instead, my time at the lab has spurred me on to seriously consider furthering my education and continue working at the cutting edge of research, rather than designing a bolt somewhere,” O’Neill says.

The senior in mechanical engineering attributes his passion for engineering to his time spent as a researcher through the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative (FURI). O’Neill was also actively involved in the Human-Oriented Robotics and Control (HORC) laboratory, the Edson Student Entrepreneurship Initiative (ESEI) and Barrett, the Honors College.

“FURI was the most valuable aspect of my undergraduate experience, even more so than classes,” O’Neill says. “FURI resulted in tangible accomplishments, like published papers or patents, that will bolster my career aspirations. Plus, I did cutting-edge research that has a real-world impact.”

O’Neill’s research work branched out into many areas. Last summer he travelled to two national conferences to present his research. During the course of his work, O’Neill also designed and built a novel device and obtained a provisional patent for the device. He is currently working with Arizona Technology Enterprises (AZTE) to identify potential market partners for licensing.

For his senior capstone, O’Neill’s group worked with Raytheon Missile Systems on a real weapon and worked under a nondisclosure agreement and international traffic in arms regulations.

O’Neill attributes much of his success and personal development to his relationship with his mentor, Panagiotis Artemiadis, assistant professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, one of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. The two began working together in the HORC lab immediately when Artemiadis joined ASU in 2011. O’Neill was one of three original students to join the lab.

This small group was responsible for the creation and rise of the lab, including everything from furnishing the lab, building the IT infrastructure, creating the devices, coding all the underlying applications, recruiting lab members, setting the lab course and picking the research.

O’Neill says that Artemiadis taught him how to communicate, write a research paper, make a budget, apply for a grant, work with a team, design an experiment and form working relationships.

“My mentor was central to my FURI experience as a leader, mentor, teammate and friend,” O’Neill says. “I found FURI to be the most valuable part of my undergraduate experience, and I believe that my mentor was nearly the entire source of that value.”

For more information about FURI, visit engineering.asu.edu/furi or contact furi@asu.edu. For more information about additional engineering research opportunities through ASU, visit engineering.asu.edu/discover.

By Cortney Hicks