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ENG 198 JS2 "Introduction to Research"

Research is a wonderful way to fulfill honors requirements. The purpose of this course is to introduce students to research methodologies, to survey the outstanding opportunities available in the College of Engineering, and to help plan for an upper-class honors contract including research. In addition to the lectures, students will also work on team projects and/or independent study assignments. This course is reserved for freshman James Scholar students in the College of Engineering and it fulfills the freshman honors requirement.  Sophomores and juniors may also take the course as space allows.

SPRING 2017 - This course meets on Mondays in 1214 Siebel Center, at 4:00pm.  The weekly meeting will consist of lectures, discussions, class brainstorming and student-led activities.  A range of open assignments, involving some independent study and research from library and internet sources will be the basis for students' interaction in class. "Open" means that assignments will not be collected for formal grading, but students will be expected to have worked on their own on such assignments to support their participation in class discussion, not unlike the way discussions may take place in research meetings.  There will be an individual or team final project activity (independent study), starting approximately at mid-term, which will result in a final paper.  Final grade will be based on attendance, participation in the class discussion and the final paper.

Instructor: Umberto Ravaioli (Senior Assistant Dean and Professor of ECE) - Office: 206 Engineering Hall

There are no formal office hours for this class.  Please, contact the instructor by e-mail with any questions.


  • As students registered for this course you are expect to attend class regularly, to come to class prepared and to be on time.  If there are any conflicts that may prevent you from being punctual, please discuss with the instructor.  While an occasional absence should not be a problem, you should inform the instructor if you need to be absent for a prolonged period, whatever the reason.  
  • You are expected to participate in the discussions and to be engaged at all times. You may access electronic devices for the purpose to perform in class research but not for activities extraneous to the class.  
  • The class will require you to research a variety of materials and prepare a final paper on a topic of your choice.  Make sure to cite your sources.  Writings should be your own work. 




CLASS Wiki-notes


January 22, 2018

Introduction to the course.

Open Assignment 1 - Explore research activities in your department, consulting material posted on the departmental web site.  This will be the basis for discussion next week.  Try to collect information and answer questions like: What research activities are ongoing in your department? What are the areas that you are interested in? Why? Identify at least one area that really attracts you and look for additional information.  Bring your comments and questions next week, being prepared to share with the class.

Open Assignment 2 - Public Broadcasting stations have aired the series "NOVA Making Stuff" and "NOVA Making More Stuff".  All programs in the series are accessible on line: (Making Stuff: Stronger / Smaller / Cleaner / Smarter) (Making Stuff: Faster / Wilder / Colder / Safer)









Versions of these eight videos are available on You Tube,Focus on one episode of the show that interests you the most and try to discover more.  Develop talking points or questions to bring up in class. There are also many interesting links to other technology topics that you may explore for discussion or inspiration for future activities. 


January 29, 2018

Discussion on open assignments.

Hands on exploration of on line library resources - A large number of books and almost every relevant scientific journal is available on line through the digital resources of the University of Illinois library.  However, many journal papers may be too advanced for undergraduate students.  It is important to get familiar with publications suitable for an intermediate or general reader that introduce technical topics of current interest.  The best start is to explore publications of the main professional societies.  

For example, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) publishes 

- IEEE Spectrum 

- IEEE Computing in Science and Engineering 

Another important Society is the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) which publishes 

- Mechanical Engineering (The Magazine of ASME) 

Open Assignment 3 - Find out what society may be in your area of study and if they publish a magazine.  Browse recent issues and pick an interesting article.  Be prepared to discuss that article in class. 

Open Assignment 4 - Watch the documentary "Naturally Obsessed: The Making of a Scientist" available on line at   

We will discuss next time in class


February 5, 2018

Discussion on open assignments.

READING ASSIGNMENT (required): D. Beach "The Responsible Conduct of Research" - This 1996 book is available from Wiley Online Library for members of the University of Illinois Community.  From a computer on the UIUC network or elsewhere if connected via VPN, you can reach the book download page at: 

There are 10 chapters in this book. You should start reading it immediately, at a rate of at least 2 chapters or so a week and be done by end of Spring break.  Besides reading the entire book, focus on the chapter which interests you the most and be prepared to discuss it in class whenever you are ready to do so.  

Some more tips on finding library sources: (here you may find material like patents) 

Open Assignment 5 - Explore one digital library resource.  Search a topic of interest and see what you can come up with.  Report in class about your findings. Every student in the class should bring notes with at least one topic of interest and several interesting findings researching the library resources.

Information on ethics training requirements for various federal agencies:

National Science Foundation (NSF) – Certified RCR training is required for all graduate students, undergraduate students, and postdoctoral researchers included on all full proposals submitted or due on or after January 4, 2010. These individuals must be trained within 60 days of their start date on these awards. See

National Institute of Health (NIH) – All trainees, fellows, participants, and scholars (typically meaning faculty, students, postdoctoral researchers, and professional or scientific staff) receiving support through any NIH training, career development award (individual or institutional), research education grant, and dissertation research grant must receive RCR instruction. Please note that revised NIH guidelines indicate that online training alone is insufficient—the RCR training these individuals receive must contain a face-to-face component. See

USDA-NIFA – For awards subject to February 2013 Research Terms and Conditions and those awards issued subsequently, program directors, faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and any staff participating in the research project must receive training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research. At a minimum, this training should address issues of authorship and plagiarism, data and research integration, and reporting misconduct. See

Open Assignment 6  Listen to Podcasts:

This American Life 441: When Patents Attack! 

This American Life 496: When Patents Attack... Part Two! 

What are your reactions and thoughts generated by these programs?  Come with comments and ideas to share.


February 12, 2018

Discussion on open assignments.

Assignment (Mandatory) - It is time to select a technical topic for self-study during the second half of the semester, leading to the completion of the class term paper.  Bring to class a brief proposal on one sheet of paper, with the following elements:

1) Name and UIN

2) Curriculum

3) Title of the Topic

4) Summary description of the topic

5) Reflections on why you are interested in the topic, why it is important, why it is interesting to you, implication for society, etc.

This is to be turned in, in class.  Type and print, no handwritten material. 

Open Assignment 8  Select one video to watch for discussion in class, from the list below.  Think about relevant research directions that could impact the future of society, the way you see it.  What will be enabled? What are the risks? What are the opportunities?

More free resources:

Downloadable monographs from Institute of Physics (U.K.):

Open Assignment 9 Download from the collection above volumes of general interest for this Research Class:

Also, look for titles which may relate to your interest for the term paper.


February 19, 2018

Collection of proposals fro technical topic to be pursued as independent study.

Discussion on open assignments.

Ongoing Assignment: Continue with the reading of the book "The Responsible Conduct of Research"

Open Assignment 10 - Watch the video Super Skyscrapers - The Leadenhall Building, London 2014 

  • What disciplines have converged to make this approach to construction possible? How does teamwork play an important role in such a project?
  • What connections do you see to your own major or to courses you have taken or plan to take in the future (even if you are not a Civil Engineer)?
  • Another interesting videon on skyscrapers: The Shanghai Tower .  Watch if you have time and bring your impressions to class.

Open Assignment 11 - On the website of the National Academies Press, download

"On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research: Third Edition (2009)".

You shoud be able to download the free pdf file as a guest but you can also establish a free account to download in the future. Use this publication as a reference as you read the book reading assigned earlier.  You will here some case studies which we will discuss in a future class meeting.


February 26, 2018

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