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Falvey Scholars 2022: Mai Khuc ’22 COE

Mai Khuc The Falvey Scholars Program is an annual program established by Falvey Library to recognize outstanding undergraduate research. Now in its 20th year, the program is a collective initiative of the Library and the Center for Research and Fellowships. The recipients of this award are selected from a pool of candidates nominated by Villanova faculty and reviewed by Library staff and faculty.

This year, eight students received awards, their work reflecting the breadth and depth of undergraduate research at the University as well as the support the Library, its resources and staff, provide student-scholars.

This blog is the last of seven installments, which will introduce our scholars and cover their research in their own words. Look for additional coverage of the Falvey Scholars in the fall issue of Mosaic.

Congratulations to all of our Falvey Scholars, past and present!

Scholar Summary

Mai Khuc ’22 COE

  • Project Title: “Cost Estimation Tools for Data Center Two-Phase Cooling with Vapor Recompression-based Heat Recovery”
  • Faculty Mentor: Aaron Wemhoff, PhD, Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering
  • Hometown: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • Other Honors: Selected for Big East Poster Competition, Academic Excellence Award for the College of Engineering, Tau Beta Pi, Pi Tau Sigma, National Grand Challenge Scholar Program

Describe your research in your own words.
Data centers consume approximately 2% of all U.S. electricity, so efficiency improvements can yield large financial and environmental benefits.

I started out by learning about data centers, their operations, and their energy usage. I have never had a chance to learn about air conditioning systems in my engineering class before, thus Falvey Library was a great resource for me to get started.

After modeling the heat recovery system in Aspen Plus simulation software, I once again relied on the Library to learn about financial terminology, such as capital cost as well as payback period and how to calculate them. I also looked up different case studies to compare my analysis with other researchers’ work. After getting my capital cost and payback period, I used different sustainability metrics to evaluate these systems’ performance from an environmental perspective.

How did Falvey’s resources and databases impact your research?
The resources from Falvey Library have helped me tremendously throughout my career at Villanova, especially over this project where I tried to estimate the capital cost of a data center energy recovery system.

The online library has a wide variety of both physical and electronic books, journal articles, and conference papers for me to learn more about data centers, their energy consumption, as well as different heat recovery options. My project also has environmental and business aspects, such as sustainability metrics and capital cost estimation, thus many large databases in different fields that Falvey has have allowed me to access the top-quality papers in multiple disciplines.

How did the Library’s staff impact your research and academic experience?
Those resources could not have been used to their full potential if not thanks to the most friendly and supportive librarians that I met. I was fortunate enough to meet Alfred Fry, Science and Engineering Librarian, during my first semester at Villanova when he came to two of my classes to teach us how to most effectively utilize Falvey’s resources.

Those tips that Alfred has taught us have been extremely helpful for me, especially for this research since I was looking for a very niche field. I have also had the opportunity to work with both Alfred and Linda Hauck, Business Librarian, personally, and while our meeting was not directly related to this research, I have learned a lot from their guidance during these sessions and applied it to my project, specifically their advice on how to properly use engineering and economics resources.

What’s next for you?
I am now working as an Energy Engineer in the Albany, N.Y., office of Ramboll, an engineering consulting firm based in Denmark. While I won’t be working directly with data centers, it is still working to use energy most efficiently.


NovaRacing Takes Over Falvey Library

By Ethan Shea

"NovaRacing Race Car"

If you have visited the ground floor of Falvey Library lately, you may have noticed some new decor. Located just outside of the Idea Lab, you can find a streamlined racecar that has been temporarily relocated from the College of Engineering due to the CEER Expansion Project.

"NovaRacing Photo"

Photo Courtesy of Villanova Engineering

This car belongs to Villanova’s NovaRacing team, a Formula SAE car racing group. Each year, students who represent NovaRacing must build a car from scratch to compete in a competition that puts several aspects of the car, from its durability to its acceleration, to the test.

When Falvey patrons see such a sleek vehicle, of course the number one question on their minds will be “How fast does it go?” Well, thanks to Will Stoval ’24, a dedicated member of NovaRacing, I have the answer to this question and much more.

To get right to the point, Stoval informed me that the University’s Formula SAE cars go about 82 miles per hour (mph) at top speed. He also mentioned a new feature of the team’s car called the aeropackage. Stoval explained that this addition functions as front and rear wings to the car, and that they are “essentially airplane wings upside down that serve to press the car into the ground so it may corner at higher speeds.”

Despite the informative nature of NovaRacing, the group is much more than a way to teach students engineering. Stoval can attest to this, as he stated: “Some of the most memorable things I have learned from college have come from NovaRacing. Between learning how to weld and work on engines, I’ve learned how important working in a real team is and just how integral leadership and patience are to overcoming obstacles the group may encounter.”

Stoval specifically wanted the car beside Falvey’s Idea Lab because he has “always loved the Idea Lab and how the whole point of the space is to foster creativity and innovation. A racing car built by students perfectly embodies the spirit of the lab.”

Falvey Library is happy to house such a fascinating work of engineering that embodies the hard work and talent of so many Villanova students. In addition to the exciting renovations to the College of Engineering, this car’s temporary presence in Falvey is a welcome effect of the CEER Expansion Project.

Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a first-year English Graduate Student and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.

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3MT: Villanova Students Share Their Research in Timed Competition

Poster of the 3MT event.

Join us for the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition on Friday, Feb. 18, in the John and Joan Mullen Center for the Performing Arts. The main event will take place from 3-5 p.m. and the reception will take place from 5-6 p.m.

What is a 3MT competition? Three Minute Thesis (3MT) is a competition for master’s and doctoral students to develop and showcase their research communication skills. Developed by The University of Queensland, 3MT cultivates students’ academic, professional, presentation and research communication skills. To be successful, competitors must effectively explain their research in three minutes, in a language appropriate to a non-specialist audience.

A panel of judges will select a first-place winner ($1,000 award), a second-place winner ($500 award), and audience members in attendance will select an audience choice winner ($250 award). In addition, the first-place winner of Villanova’s 3MT competition will be entered into the regional 3MT competition for the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools.

This event, sponsored by the Graduate Programs in CLAS, COE, FCON, VSB, and Falvey Memorial Library, is free and open to the public. For more information about 3MT, please visit the 3MT website.

Grab your tickets to the competition here (there is no cost to attend the event).



Falvey Scholar 2021: Nicholas Yoo



Welcome to part 6 of a 7-part series featuring the 2021 Falvey Scholars. Read more about them every Monday and in the upcoming issue of Mosaic: the Library’s bi-annual publication.

Falvey Memorial Library is honored to announce the 2021 Falvey Scholar award winners. We will showcase the research of our eight young alumni on the blog and in the fall issue of Mosaic.

Sponsored by the Library and the Center for Research and Fellowships, the Falvey Scholars program recognizes outstanding undergraduate research at Villanova University. Award winners are selected from a pool of candidates generated by applications submitted by a senior Villanova University student or a group of students working on a senior project together with the recommendation of the advisor to the senior thesis or capstone project completed for academic credit.

View the 2021 Falvey Scholars Awards virtual booklet.

Researcher Brief

Falvey Scholar: Nicholas Yoo

Hometown: Orange, Conn.

Other Honors: Villanova First Year Match Program Grant; Villanova Undergraduate Research Fellows (VURF) Grant; Oak Ridge National Lab Visiting Faculty Program–Student Grant; Villanova Small Research Grant

Project Title: “The Atomic Interaction between Polymers and Two-Dimensional Materials”

Faculty Mentor: Bo Li, PhD, Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering

Learn about Nicholas’ research in his own words:


Tell me about your Falvey Scholar Award-winning research project.

Nanomaterials are an exciting kind of new material that we’ve been researching, because this has so many applications for many fields. First, a literature search was performed in the field of polymers and 2-D nanomaterials to find a foundation and build our own novel ideas from there.

Building off past work, Dr. Li and I formulated an experimental plan to grow polymer structures on the surface of MoSe2. The MoSe2 samples were analyzed with high class equipment such as a Raman spectrometer and atomic force microscope before and after polymer growth to determine which characteristics of the material affected it.

We also cross-referenced our data with data found in literature to check for any irregularities in our samples that may have occurred during experimentation. The experimental procedure was also modified a few times to better control the polymer growth. This was done through a combination of trial and error and literature review.


How did Falvey Memorial Library support your research?

Falvey was crucial to being able to complete the project. Using online databases, I was able to access almost any article I wanted for free. I built the foundations of the entire project using the articles I was able to access through the Library. I designed my own experiment after learning which solvents promoted the most controllable growth, the temperature range for growth, etc.

I continued to use the Library’s resources throughout the project to compare our results to past work and understand more of the work that already has been done in the field. The Library helped me understand the existing work done in the field of polymers and nanomaterials and pursue a novel direction to further the field.


What impact did this project have on you? And what’s next for you?

I learned how to write papers and create poster presentations as well as the day-to-day work of a researcher. I want to go to graduate school to pursue a doctorate in chemical engineering and potentially conduct more research in the field of nanomaterials.


Shawn Proctor Head shotShawn Proctor, MFA, is Communications and Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Memorial Library.




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Photo Friday: Reading, Writing, Relaxing

student Chris Bondoc in a hammock

We caught up with senior College of Engineering Student Chris Bondoc “chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool” (to quote Will Smith) in a hammock near the Library. The Tampa, Fla., native won’t be wanting for sunshine today!

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Lessons Learned From a Robotic Snake Jaw: Meet Lauren Garofalo and Samantha Sandler, 2020 Falvey Scholars

By Shawn Proctor

This is part 3 of a 6-part series featuring the 2020 Falvey Scholars. Read more about them each Tuesday and Thursday, and in the upcoming issue of Mosaic, the library’s bi-annual publication.

Villanova “Wild Facts”

Lauren Garofalo ’20 (Mechanical Engineering)
Hometown: Egg Harbor Township, N.J.
Additional Honors: Magna Cum Laude, Kevin R. Scott ’85 Memorial Scholarship, Boeing Summer Business Institute Scholarship, Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, Drexel GAANN Fellowship,
Samantha Sandler ’20 (Mechanical Engineering)
Hometown: Long Island, N.Y.
Additional Honors: Magna Cum Laude, Dean’s Award Recipient for Meritorious Service, Dr. Neville Distinguished Student Award, Tau Beta Pi Honor Society, Pi Tau Sigma Honor Society

Faculty Mentor:
Deeksha Seth, PhD, Assistant Teaching Professor
Research: “Evaluation of a Snake Jaw Robot to Teach Integrated Biology, Mathematics, and Engineering”

In Their Own Words

Their research:

Lauren Garofalo: We tested the effectiveness of robots as educational tools to teach integrated science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects, ignite students’ interests in STEM and studying STEM in college, and increasing students’ feelings of belongingness within the STEM fields.
Samantha Sandler: Robots are a great educational medium because their integrated nature incorporate all features critical to design. The integrated aspects of design tend to spur the students’ ability to recognize the integrated nature of the subject matter itself. In the case of the snake jaw robot, the focus was the functionality of the quadrate bone, but the students recognized connections to degrees of freedom, angles of rotation, and forces.
By presenting a snake jaw robot and snake jaw video presentations, we were able to evaluate the performance of robotics compared to conventional educational techniques. The results of our study were that the robot performed significantly better in its ability to increase interest in STEM and recognize connections between natural phenomenon and engineering.
Falvey’s Impact on Their Work:
Lauren: Library staff helped me find the resources we needed to supplement preliminary research regarding state of the art of robotics as educational tools. The resources and databases helped us perform statistical analysis of our data. Since we used Likert-Scale questions in our survey, we needed to do some research on appropriate statistical testing to ensure meaningful, accurate results.
Samantha: The Falvey staff did a great job in presenting the resources available at the library, which greatly impacted my ability to access full publications of journal articles for free. The Library’s resources played a critical role in our ability to understand the currently practiced educational techniques and the impacts of integrated education. Additionally, the Library’s resources were very helpful for understanding the various methods of statistical analysis.
The Impact on Them:
Lauren: I am definitely still interested in pursuing robotics. Generally, I will be straying away from the educational component, but I am still interested in looking at robots as tools to help people.
Samantha: This project has helped me recognize my interests in product design and robotics. This research was a unique opportunity to combine my major in Mechanical Engineering with my minor in Engineering Entrepreneurship. I began this research particularly interested in evaluating the design of the robot with respect to the desired functionality. It was interesting because though the robot met all of the design criteria prompted by the customer at the Academy of Natural Sciences, our research allowed us to recognize features we would optimize in the future to better achieve the desired learning objectives. These results allowed us to recognize the importance of focusing on the desired impact of the product with respect to design and functional analysis.
What’s next:

Lauren: I am pursuing a doctorate in Mechanical Engineering at Drexel University, studying under Dr. James Tangorra.

Samantha: I will be working in Melbourne, Florida for L3Harris Technologies as a designer in the Space and Airborne Systems Sector.

Shawn ProctorShawn Proctor, MFA, is Communications and Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Memorial Library.





An Eye on Salt Marsh Ecology: Meet Gabriella Bliss Giordano, 2020 Falvey Scholar

By Shawn Proctor

This is part 2 of a 6-part series featuring the 2020 Falvey Scholars. Read more about them each Tuesday and Thursday, and in the upcoming issue of Mosaic, the library’s bi-annual publication.

Villanova “Wild Facts”

Gabriella Bliss Giordano ’20 (Environmental Science and Geography)
Hometown: Massapequa, N.Y.
Additional Honors: Alexander Von Humboldt Medallion for Excellence in Geography, Magna Cum Laude, Gamma Theta Epsilon International Geography Honor Society

Project Title: “Spatial analysis of heavy metals in marsh soils and ribbed mussels (Geukensia demissa) from Plum Island Estuary, MA”

Mentor: Nathaniel Weston, PhD, Associate Professor

In Her Own Words

Her research:

For my senior thesis project, I analyzed the spatial distribution heavy metal concentrations in marsh soils and the endemic ribbed mussel geukensia demissa from the Plum Island Estuary in Massachusetts. This estuary is an intertidal riverine marsh with freshwater inputs and is the largest expanse of salt marsh in the Northeast.

After field collection, I hot acid digested samples and analyzed for metal content on an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer.

Overall, I found that soils did show decreasing trends with increasing distance from the fresh, river inputs.  On the other hand, the metal concentration in mussels was not described by soil concentrations and did not show a clear spatial pattern. Mussels were likely more influenced by size and would likely be more indicative of the metal in suspended sediment than in surficial sediment.


Falvey’s Impact on Her Work:

Over the course of my four years at Villanova, Falvey has been a huge help in my academics, from study spaces to staff to Holy Grounds coffee. By simply keeping the library operating and clean the staff has helped everyone in their research and academic experience. Over the course of my work on this project, I met with Librarian Alfred Fry to guide my literature search for both background reading and writing purposes. Being able to meet with someone in the library who specializes in scientific literature review is a very powerful resource.

In this online era, being able to navigate the internet for credible sources is extremely important. Falvey’s resources make it incredibly easy to search for articles and academic journals either directly through its website or through a number of databases. The wide range of databases, journals and publishers that Falvey provides to students is incredibly helpful. I became especially appreciative of all the online resources Falvey provides during this unprecedented time.


The Impact on Her and What’s Next:

I have been working with Dr. Weston since freshman year and always knew I wanted to continue my higher education and do research whether it was in salt marshes or not. After four years, I couldn’t part with the marshes and will be researching biogeochemistry and ecology of Georgia salt marshes in graduate school at the University of Georgia where I will be pursuing a Master’s in Marine Science. Dr. Weston and I are also hoping to continue working on my thesis for publication, which would include additional lab analyses and paper editing.

Shawn ProctorShawn Proctor, MFA, is Communications and Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Memorial Library.






Last Modified: June 23, 2020

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