UA Students Selected for National Research Experience

  • May 4th, 2017
Alison Farrar

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Two juniors at The University of Alabama were selected to work this summer at one of the nation’s premiere research institutions for the physical and engineering sciences.

Alison Farrar, of South Pasadena, California, and Sam Spector, of Northport, will be part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, or NIST-SURF.

Fellows in the competitive program are awarded grants to spend 11 weeks in Gaithersburg, Maryland, to conduct research alongside a NIST scientist or engineer.

“A summer internship at the National Institute of Standards and Technology provides a wonderful opportunity for our students,” said Dr. Susan Burkett, UA’s Alabama Power Foundation Endowed Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering and campus liaison with NIST. “The quality and variety of potential projects that our students will be exposed to during the summer will be invaluable in providing rich experiences.”

As the lead federal agency for technology transfer, NIST provides a strong interface between government, industry and academia.

Sam Spector

The institutions embodies a science culture, developed from a large and well-equipped research staff that enthusiastically blends programs that address the immediate needs of industry with longer-term research that anticipates future needs.

Farrar is studying physics with a minor in mathematics and is a part of UA’s Computer-Based Honors Program. In addition to recognition as a NIST-SURF fellow, she is also a 2017 Goldwater Scholar.

Her research experience as an undergraduate span several technical areas in health, materials, mathematics and magnetism.

She is working under the guidance of Dr. Claudia Mewes, UA associate professor of physics and astronomy and member of the MINT Center, on anisotropic damping, a new phenomenon of micromagnetic behavior found in the modern magnetic materials used for computer storage devices and medical technology.

Farrar is a member of several student societies including Women in Physics & Astronomy, Mathematics Honor Society, International Students Association, and Honors College Assembly Cultural Experiences & Diversity.

Spector studies environmental engineering and is part of UA Honors College. He worked under Dr. Andrew Graettinger, UA professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering, on resilience engineering through studying the aftermath of devastating tornados.

That work led to co-authorship on a conference paper. Through the Cooperative Education Program, Spector has worked three semesters for Fluid Engineering Inc. in Birmingham. He also studied in Austria in 2015 as part of UA Study Abroad.

On campus, Spector has been involved in the College of Engineering’s peer mentoring program, Mentor UPP.


Adam Jones, UA Media Relations, 205/348-4328,

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.