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Spring 2003 - Undergrad

Destination Purdue > Spring 2003 - Undergrad

Undergrad discovers research benefits

By Kit Sydloski

A Purdue University undergraduate has his feet firmly planted in doing research. Brian Costigan, a senior honors student in agricultural and biological engineering and biochemistry from Cincinnati, Ohio, is researching plant genetics.

Brian Costigan

Photo by Kit Sydloski

Brian Costigan applies what he knows to research on plant genetics.

Costigan has class from 9:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. and then heads to the lab until 5:00 p.m. This may seem like a lot of work, but it is not, Costigan said. "It's all about time management and being organized," he said. "You're all right as long as you remember that classes come first."

Costigan is currently paid to research how plants' genetics can be altered to use their oils to create industrial products instead of using petroleum resources to produce them.

He has researched for pay and school credit. "There are benefits to both," he said. "The money is an obvious benefit, but with paid research you are usually told what to research. Research for class credit allows you to research a topic that is of interest to you. Both give good experience to put on a resume."

At Purdue, undergrads can also do research through the Student Soybean Product Innovation Competition. Students develop original uses for soybeans. Each team picks a topic for research and development. Winners get monetary prizes. Teams have made ski wax, candles and desserts. Costigan was part of a first-place team that developed markers made from a soy oil base. The oil eliminated the usual ink smell and made them more biodegradable.

"The contest is a good opportunity for students," said Bernard Tao, professor in Purdue's Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, who has been involved in undergraduate research for 12 years. "It allows them to be creative while getting good research experience."