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KEEN Undergraduate Student Development Grants

The department of applied physical sciences is working with the KEEN program to incorporate the entrepreneurial mindset into our engineering activities. Engineers with an entrepreneurial mindset can be more successful in their careers, and it is not limited to those who are interested in starting a company.

As part of this effort at UNC, we are offering KEEN supplements to the Undergraduate Research Consultant Teams grants for research projects that incorporate engineering activities. The purpose of the KEEN supplement is to foster an entrepreneurial mindset in engineering, and we define engineering broadly as using the principles of science and mathematics to design and develop a solution that addresses a problem.

Supported by KEEN Engineering Unleashed

The department of applied physical sciences is awarding two $1,500 supplements per academic year to Undergraduate Research Consultant Team research projects that incorporate engineering activities as part of the partnership with Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN).

How to Apply

The goal of the KEEN supplement is to leverage a project that incorporates curiosity, connections, and creating value to the user (the “KEEN 3C’s) into a project that will demonstrate engineering principles. As described on the site, URCT teams are small “strike teams” of students from multiple disciplines who will executive well-defined, one semester projects guided by a faculty advisor.

To obtain the URCT Grant, apply for the Undergraduate Consultant Teams grant on their website. Visit the site for the necessary resources and materials needed.

To apply for the URCT KEEN Supplement, complete the following items below.

Each member of the team should do the following:

  1. Review Videos
    Entrepreneurial Mindset 101 presented by KEEN (3 min)
    The Entrepreneurial Mindset in Engineering presented by KEEN (9 min)
    FSE 100: Entrepreneurial Mindset by ASU instructor, Benjamin Mertz (start at the 2 min mark, and watch the last 3.5 min)
  2. Review KEEN Frameworks Document
  3. Pass a short quiz that covers the content of the videos and KEEN Frameworks

As a group, complete the following:

  1. KEEN Supplement Application (1-page limit): Provide an overview that clearly defines your objective and explains how the 3 Cs of EM – curiosity, connections, and creating value – are integrated. Describe how the application of EM will positively impact the outcome and who will be impacted.

    Curiosity: Explain how your curiosity will impact how you approach your research or project. What first made you curious? What solutions currently exist? What alternatives have you considered? Have you considered sustainability?

    Connections: Explain the connections you will make from multiple resources to ensure your research or project results in a valuable solution for all stakeholders. Possible connections can be made through coursework, research, faculty, industry contacts, experiences, and/or the connection of multiple ideas not typically considered related to one another. What knowledge connections have you made? How will these connections impact you and allow you to connect information not typically related to one another? How can you integrate this information from many sources to gain insight and assess and manage risk? What people connections (stakeholders) have you made?

    Creating Value: Explain how your project will create value for you and/or others. What is the societal value of your solution/findings? What is the economic value? Will your solution/findings provide value to your stakeholders? How will this impact your future projects/goals?

  2. KEEN supplement budget: submit a budget that describes how you will spend the additional funds (up to $1500) from this supplement. These should be for activities related to the engineering aspects of the project.

Email the KEEN Supplement Application and budget to Dr. Richard Goldberg ( and Ms. Megan Morin ( by the URCT deadline. 

After the supplement is awarded, meet with the UNC KEEN team, schedule a meeting with the UNC KEEN team to tell us more about your grant and the connections to entrepreneurial minded learning.

Present your poster at the Celebration of Undergraduate Research. In addition to highlighting your technical research, your poster should include information on how the entrepreneurial mindset enhanced your work. Your poster should also recognize funding from KEEN Engineering Unleashed with the display of their logo.

Drone Project: Seeing the Forest for the Trees

The project uses drone technology to collect forest data for research, conservation, and management. In the study, the team is flying a Phantom 4 drone over an urban forest (Mason Farm Biological Reserve) to collect aerial imagery and process it with Pix4D software and the structure from motion technique to generate orthomosaic maps and 3D point clouds of trees. The team compared heights of trees determined from drone-based data to data collected using traditional on-the-ground forest mensuration techniques.

Project Progress

  • The team has flown the drone over a test site in Mason Farm Biological Reserve to produce a map and 3D model of the landscape for preliminary testing.
  • The team has designed and 3D printed three mounts for the GoPro Fusion for field testing.
  • All testing has been promising and successful to contribute to the end goal.

Program Participants

Principal Investigators:
Dr. Geoffrey Bell and Dr. Susan Cohen
Emi Mcgeady: Senior; Environmental Sciences major
Felix Evans: Senior; Environmental Sciences major
Lennon Kuhl-Chimera: Sophomore; Communication Studies major
Jay Hampton: Senior; Information Sciences major
Crishaun Hardy: Senior Environmental Studies major

The impact of sex hormones on epithelial cell immune responses and wound repair

The Burn Lab Undergraduate Research Team (URCT) will address their hypothesis that estrogen signaling contributes to sex differences in physiological responses and outcomes after burn injury. Through a series of experiments designed to uncover how estrogen affects the ability of epithelial cells, the body’s primary barrier cells to respond to and recover from injury.

The primary aims of this project are:
1) to measure the impact of estrogen on immune responses and inflammation-induced cell death of epithelial cells;
2) to establish an in vitro model of wound healing to evaluate the consequence of estrogen signaling on barrier repair mechanisms;
3) translate these findings to human samples to identify sex-specific immune responses to burn injury.

Program Participants

Principal Investigators: Dr. Rob Maile and Dr. Shannon Wallet
Group Leader: Micah Willis
Clinician mentor: Bruce Cairns, M.D.

Bharath Biyyala: Senior; Health Policy and Management major
Delane Dixon: Senior, African American and Diaspora studies majors
Robin Ni: Junior, Biology and Chemistry majors
Parsa Pazooki: Junior, Neuroscience and Math majors
Kalyani Manian: Sophomore, Biology major

Optimization of Dental Carbon-Nanotube-based Cone Beam CT

This project will research and optimize a carbon nanotube cone beam CT (CBCT) within the UNC Dental School with the objective of producing a viable and efficient device for dental imaging.

Program Participants

Principal Investigator: Dr. Christie Inscoe

Nikhil Sriram Kabilian: Junior, Physics and Mathematics majors
Alexander Morrow: Junior, Physics major with German Minor
Korina Kempthorn: Senior, Quantitative Biology and Physics majors, Chemistry minor

From Stage to Screen: Moving the Arts Forward During a Pandemic Pause

UNC Opera students are working in tandem with engineering students to create a rig mechanism for the sets of our filmed opera project. One of the major staging elements of our opera is the use of picture frames, which will be dynamically enhanced by the implementation of a moving track for various set pieces moving in, out, and around the frames and a pulley system for the entrance and exits of the frames upwards and downwards. The purpose of this project is to research, stage, and produce an innovative film version of Mozart’s opera during the 2020 fall semester.

Program Participants

Principal Investigator: Dr. Marc Callahan

Julia Holoman: Sophomore, Music major
Kennedy Miller: Junior, Music & English and Comparative Literature majors
Julia Stamey: Senior, Communication: Media and Technology Studies & Production and English & Comparative Literature: Film Studies majors
Charlotte Dorn: Junior, Computer Science major
Ana Carvallo: Junior, Applied Mathematics & French majors