Clemson EUREKA! alumni reflect on research
Sometimes it happens after you stare at a math problem for hours, certain you’ve examined it every way possible.
Sometimes it happens in bumper-to-bumper traffic, when you’re forced to analyze your latest work assignment.
The first documented “eureka!” was by Greek mathematician Archimedes as he discovered his method of determining the purity of gold. He went into the streets shouting the Greek “heureka,” or “I found it.” Since, scholars have experienced their own eureka moments, like Einstein when he discovered his famous theory of relativity.
Whenever it happens, the “eureka!” or “ah-ha!” moment is an experience to savor when it happens.
Thanks to Clemson University’s EUREKA! program, two Clemson alumni had many of these “ah-ha” moments, and arguably one of their most memorable, when they realized they were in love.
Beyond the allure of Clemson’s rigorous academic programs, Cory Wallace and Rachael Bedosky chose to become Tigers because of the campus’ contagious atmosphere and spirit of family.
“I chose Clemson for a number of reasons, but one of the biggest was the spirit that hits you as soon as you walk on campus,” said Rachael.
Cory and Rachael were both members of the Calhoun Honors College, an academic program that allows students to select specialized courses and engage in extra opportunities to interact with faculty, staff and other students in an intellectually stimulating way.
Students admitted into the Honors College can participate in the Experiences in Undergraduate Research, Exploration and Knowledge Advancement (EUREKA!) program, which offers the opportunities to participate in research projects and scholarly studies during a five-week, live-in program on Clemson’s campus during the summer.
Both Cory and Rachael opted to participate in the EUREKA! Program, though they decided to join for different reasons.
“I had not been exposed to research opportunities prior to EUREKA! and it seemed like a great opportunity to broaden my horizons,” Cory explained.
Rachael’s decision to take part in EUREKA! was more extrinsically motivated.
“I did not originally want to participate in EUREKA! because I wanted to stay at home with my friends for my last summer before college. But my mom insisted that EUREKA! would be a valuable experience. She was right,” said Rachael. “I thought that participating in EUREKA! would mean spending my summer doing schoolwork with no time for breaks or fun. I was completely wrong.”
Even though Rachael and Cory were both enrolled in EUREKA! at the same time as prospective engineering students, they worked on different projects. Cory worked with the materials science and engineering department, studying the effects of material composition on molecular structure to better understand how the minor adjustments of composition affect the final material’s properties.
“The goal of my project was to develop tread patterns for the lunar tweel to be used on the space rovers,” Cory said of the tire-and-wheel combination. “I worked with the team developing prototype tread patterns to improve traction on the sandy surfaces encountered by the rovers. The iterative process of the experiment’s method design was something I revisited on many projects during my time at Clemson, and working on this project gave me a great head start. It also gave me great insight into the mechanical engineering field and the many avenues that the degree could offer.”
On the other hand, Rachael spent time with Kelly Smith, an associate professor of biological sciences and philosophy and religion, on “The Lifeboat Project.” Rachael worked with several students to research everything from sci-fi texts to modern space advancements to determine how humans would survive in space should a catastrophe strike Earth.
“The goal of ‘The Lifeboat Project’ was to determine the ways in which the Earth could end and evaluate the feasibility of preventing or recovering from these various Armageddons,” Rachael said. “We conducted a vast amount of research, compiling findings from novels, scientific articles and government data to compile a list of the most likely Armageddon scenarios: an asteroid strike, ecological disaster, global warming, nuclear war and pandemic. We then analyzed each scenario to evaluate whether we could remain on Earth or needed a ‘lifeboat’ or another vessel of sorts to allow human life to continue in space or on another planet.”
Participating in EUREKA! projects offers students more than just an introduction to the academic atmosphere, it also provides an opportunity to develop and fine-tune skills that can be used well beyond the collegiate years.
“This was a great opportunity to improve my independent research skills,” said Rachael. “It definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone and opened my eyes to what we could accomplish within the vast subject of science. Before, I thought that research was only successful if you found a solution to a big problem, but I learned that research is an ongoing, ever-growing process. Also, discovering that a hypothesis was wrong is just as beneficial as discovering it was right.
She also noted that the project helped her to improve planning skills, a tool she has used every day since the project began.
Becoming part of the Clemson family
While EUREKA! involves a lot of work, there also is time for students to experience campus and the benefits of being an exam-free college student before the rest of the freshman class arrives. The Honors College brings around 30 incoming freshman to campus to participate in the EUREKA! program and all have the opportunity to create lasting bonds with one another.
“I am still great friends with so many of the people I met in EUREKA! It’s also how my husband and I met,” said Rachael, whose last name now is Wallace. “This program allows you to start college knowing how to get to all your classes with a few dozen other Honors students who become friends, resources, or most likely, both.”
The Wallaces often reminisce on the other aspects of their college experiences that solidify their feelings of warmth toward Clemson.
They both loved the diversity of majors, clubs, sports and people on campus. They used the Michelin Career Center and made an effort to collaborate often with fellow students and faculty members. They were exposed to multiple disciplines in their majors and found what they are passionate about. They learned about giving attention to detail and other priceless lessons that they believe are applicable not only to work, but other aspects of everyday life.
“Clemson and EUREKA! provided us with amazing experiences. I met great people, one of whom I married right after I graduated,” said Cory. “I created connections with professors that I still reach out to today.”
Full-time, incoming freshman admitted to the Honors College can apply for the five-week EUREKA! program. The deadline to apply is May 6.