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Student Research Projects Get a $100,000 Boost from Baker and Koob Endowments

Two students take a soil sample on an oceanside cliff on a sunny day at Swanton Pacific Ranch
Written By Keegan Koberl // Photo by Joe Johnston

Cal Poly has awarded more than $108,000 to support 33 student research projects through the university’s Baker/Koob endowments, which support hands-on, project-based learning opportunities for individual students and groups. Student projects will be focused on issues including space exploration, machine learning and climate change.
Students from four of Cal Poly’s six colleges were awarded funding and will work with faculty advisors to complete their projects. For many, the projects will serve as part of senior projects or master’s theses.
Colby Scanlon, a student in the blended civil and environmental engineering program from Grass Valley, California, is using his funding to further test designs for his master’s thesis on creating origami-inspired deployable disaster relief shelters and to present his findings at the Cal Poly Pomona Civil Engineering Conference.
“I’ve been working on this project with students in both my master’s and undergraduate programs, and I’m looking forward to staying connected with them on this project after I graduate in June,” said Scanlon, who will earn both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. “It’s exciting to get support for this project as we look for new ways to create shelter when people need it most.”
Funding for these projects comes from the Warren J. Baker Endowment for Excellence in Project-Based Learning and the Robert D. Koob Endowment for Student Success. Because of the endowments’ similar purpose, distribution of the two endowments are pooled and used to fund multiple student projects via a competitive process.
Funds may be used for, but are not limited to, student support; student and faculty travel; student and faculty expenses associated with participation in student research; group projects; conferences; competitions; and equipment and materials related to student research.
“The Baker/Koob endowments provide a great opportunity for students to take the lead in research projects and to get involved with ongoing faculty research,” said Dena Grossenbacher, assistant professor in the Biological Sciences Department, who has served as an advisor on several Baker/Koob projects focused on the impacts of recent climate change on alpine plants in California national parks. “Thanks to this funding, my students have been able to travel across the state identifying plants that hadn’t been relocated since the 1980s.”
A full list of the projects is available on the Office of the Provost website.

Featured image: Two students take a soil sample at Swanton Pacific Ranch in 2019. A student project led by computer science and software engineering students supported by Baker/Koob endowments will help share the history and research happening at the ranch using artificial intelligence.

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