Engaged Learning Faculty Funding Undergraduate Research

The Publishing JoURney

Every year, SMU Libraries and the Office of Engaged Learning publish the SMU Journal of Undergraduate Research (JoUR). The JoUR is a peer and faculty-reviewed journal that showcases SMU students’ exceptional research accomplishments.


The JoUR publishing process is not simple and requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. To successfully put it together, team members are each assigned a unique role. As of 2021, the team is composed of seven editors in total. Jessie Henderson, the senior editor, onboards team members and ensures the editors comprehend the publishing process. Hannah Webb, the editor-in-chief, oversees the entire production of digital and print volumes, and the general paper and peer-revision process. The editors are tasked with the responsibility of working with student authors, faculty mentors, and the reviewers, as well as editing written work and suggesting improvements. They collaborate with SMU administration to produce an annual volume of successful undergraduate research.

Faculty also plays an important role in the JoUR publishing process. Dr. Adam Neal serves as the Assistant Director for Research Programs in the Office of Engaged Learning. Dr. Neal’s responsibilities in the publishing process include managing the editors and helping the team identify eligible peer and faculty reviewers that match the field of the paper topic. Director of SMU’s Office of Engaged Learning, Jennifer Ebinger, encourages entrepreneurship and equips the team with the tools appropriate to find funding. Dr. David Son serves as both a faculty advisor and chemistry professor at SMU. His experience in academia and the publication process enables him to help the team maintain the quality of the journal.

Road to Publication

To ensure a smooth publication process, the JoUR team uses the app, Trello, to manage tasks and establish an efficient workflow. With a defined publication system, the team can maintain a rhythm and rely on the journal being released around a similar time every year.

Students can submit their papers via email or the SMU scholar website. Once the JoUR’s editorial board receives the papers, they place them through a ‘pre-review’ process in which the editors check the quality of the papers to ensure they are in appropriate format and condition for peer and faculty review. Some authors may be asked to make corrections before they can proceed in the process.

The papers are then assigned anonymous peer and faculty reviewers. Reviewers must be in the same field as that of the paper. If the team is unable to find a reviewer in a specific field, they either seek members with similar interests or branch out to other institutions. Reviewers receive about a month and a half to evaluate organization, readability, originality, presentation, and grammar. Throughout this preliminary certification, faculty evaluates whether the results of the research make sense given the analyses.

Once reviewers deem the paper worthy of publication, it is then put through the first stage of edits; authors will implement any necessary changes and corrections to their papers before entering copy-edits.

During copy-edits, JoUR editors search for readability and any remaining grammatical errors. Once the authors implement the copy-edits, the JoUR editors format and prepare the papers for publication. Finally, a vendor will then print the papers and bind them together.

According to Dr. Adam Neal, Volume 7, Issue 1 will be ready in January and Issue II in April. Editor-in-chief, Hannah Webb, states that both issues will be printed by late April or early May. SMU Libraries posts a digital version of the journal every year. All papers can be found here. Readers can also view how many times a paper has been downloaded. Samiah Woods’ paper on ketamine’s role in spirituality served to be a huge success with nearly 900 downloads since January 2021. All papers come with a unique DOI link which can, and certainly should be, included in a resume.


JoUR’s biggest challenge is funding. As a small, student-led organization, they have learned to be financially self-sufficient. Because they are not an officially chartered student organization, they are not eligible for funding by SMU’s Student Senate.

High-quality journals cost thousands of dollars, but the team confidently believes it to be a worthy investment for students, faculty, and the institution as SMU continues its efforts to become a nationally competitive research university.

For the past few years, the Journal of Undergraduate Research has been supported by SMU Libraries, the Office of Engaged Learning, Student Senate, and the Giving Day donors. Using a temporary charter, the JoUR editorial board is grateful to have been provided funding from Student Senate, but it isn’t enough. Insufficient funding is a continuous battle for the team every year. They hope to find a more permanent solution to ensure sufficient funding every year. The JoUR editorial team will continue pursuing funding through as many ventures as possible.


 The JoUR continues to grow every year. As submissions, reviews, and funding demands increase, the editorial team will need to develop new strategies to keep up. Having gone from five editors in 2020 to seven in 2021, their number of editors is on the rise, which should help with managing the JoUR’s growth. The team wishes to continue expanding and spreading awareness so that they receive more paper submissions, and more helping hands.

Submit your work and let your talents be shared!

Engaged Learning Faculty Faculty Research

Interview With Dr. Jennifer L. Dworak (SMU Lyle School of Engineering)

Dr. Dworak

Dr. Jennifer L. Dworak is a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at SMU. Her research in hardware security, manufacturing test, and digital circuit/system reliability is funded by the National Science Foundation and Semiconductor Research Corporation.

As an undergraduate student at Texas A&M, Dr. Dworak began composing research and enjoyed it so much that she decided to get her Master’s degree. She aspired to become a professor someday, so she stayed and also received her PhD. After completing her studies, she interviewed at different companies and universities, but ultimately accepted the job offer from Brown University. She taught there for a few years and enjoyed the experience, but missed Texas and her family. After two years of working at Brown, a friend informed her of an SMU job opening in the Computer Science and Engineering Department. She was interested in hardware security so the department seemed like a good fit. She applied and was hired for that position starting July 2010.

What inspired your current research?

Dr. Dworak once believed she’d become an astronomer, but she learned in high school that there were such few job openings in the field of astronomy, that one would have to wait for someone to die in order to get an interview.

Because her father was an engineer, she saw that as a direct route to helping people, so she decided to give it a chance. Initially, she was not sure what kind of engineering to pursue, but she was curious about computers. She took a digital logic class, which allowed her to make anything from her imagination out of ANDs, Ors, and inversions. During her undergraduate research, she worked with her professor on logic minimization and how to detect abnormalities during the manufacturing process. For example, if someone needs a pacemaker, the manufacturers need to make sure it works. Because she enjoyed the experience so much, she decided to commit to the field.

What research are you working on now?

When one tests a chip, they should not only test it immediately after it has been manufactured, but several times over. Dr. Dworak’s current essential question is, “How do I efficiently run tests that detect defects faster and more effectively—especially in the field?” Before, people spent a lot of time setting up a test by shifting logic values (either a 1 or a 0) into a logic circuit one at a time (similar to shifting marbles of two different colors into a tube). Once all the logic values for the test have been shifted in, the response of the circuit to those values is captured.  The response captured could then be compared to the expected response of a good circuit to see if the circuit passed or failed the test. The amount of time it took to set up the test was much longer than actually executing it. Therefore, Dr. Dworak’s research group decided to capture the circuit’s responses at the same time the logic values were shifted in (i.e. while putting marbles in). They were better able to detect several defects as they set up each test pattern. Thus,  fewer test patterns were needed to detect all of the modeled defects.

 What resources have you needed to further your work? Have those resources been accessible?

Some of Dr. Dworak’s work involves emulating circuits in an FPGA.  One of the companies they are working with is loaning supplies (such as an FPGA board).

Additionally, for the test project using simulation, there are several computers (named Genuse) at SMU that students use to work with Mentor Tessent software, which runs on Linux. Students could use any computer, log into the Genuse machine, and run it from there.

What is a challenge you had to overcome?

Debugging code has always been a struggle because finding the issue is not easy. One approach that makes it easier to find the source of the problem is to look for “impossible” outcomes.  For example, think about data referring to birthdays.  If one part of the data says that a person’s birthday is March 25, and another part of it says that the same individual’s birthday is May 13, clearly something went wrong.  In a digital circuit, every wire should be equal to either a logic 1 (high voltage) or a logic 0 (low voltage).  If the data states that it is at both a logic 1 and a logic 0, then there is an obvious error.  Debugging often entails finding the error that causes the contradiction.

 What is the long-term goal?

Long-term, Dr. Dworak hopes to create ways to detect as many defects as possible, in as little time as possible, using the least amount of power. She also wants to see  whether “stall” cycles that occur when a processor is not doing useful work can be re-purposed to perform tests. Similarly, Dr. Dworak and her team are still looking at how to use shift cycles that set up tests to detect even more defects.

 What is one piece of advice you would give someone who is interested in conducting research?

Always check your research/experiment because it is very easy to make a small mistake that will be very difficult to recover from. If you are interested in research, never think you are too young or do not know enough to partake. Think about classes you have taken and surf different websites to see what type of research each professor is conducting. It is okay to experiment to see if a project is for you. Go after knowledge and experience, do not be intimidated by research, and try out different topics!

Thank you, Dr. Dworak!


Engaged Learning Undergraduate Research

Interview With Abigail Hays (SMU Lyle School of Engineering)

Abigail Hays

Abigail Hays is a senior in the Four-Plus-One program working toward a master’s in mechanical engineering with an emphasis on fluid and thermal sciences.


The project in which Hays partakes had already been set up by a master’s student and built upon when she became involved. Hays’ interest in adding her own twist to the project was sparked by her passion in the various scientific fields, and the associated concepts. She was eager to begin applying what she was learning in her classes!


One of Hays’ professors,  Dr. Paul Krueger, oversees the lab and the several experimental and confrontational-based projects it is composed of. Hays is involved in the fluid sciences project. Dr. Krueger’s experience in vortex formation allows him to help Hays review all of her data and steer her in the right direction.

Hays has also been working with post-doctoral researcher and adjunct professor, Dr. Matt Saari, who taught her how to code and run various equipment, two concepts she had not yet learned in school. In addition, Dr. Saari also taught Hays how to present her work in a group setting.


 The Summer 2021 Research Institute allowed Hays to narrow her focus to her specific project. By immersing herself in the intensive workshops, she acquired skills she is not typically taught in school. For example, she learned how to present and write a research thesis, put together a research paper, and conduct research on previous research and then create a literature review over it.

Hays found the program to be insightful for her master’s degree because she could turn the acquired information into her master’s thesis.  Though it was more research-specific and not so much engineering-based, Hays was able to apply what she learned throughout the institute to her research project.


Hays’ project consists of two parts:

Part 1

This past summer (2021), the team worked to get thrust in the small-scale proportion system in a lower Reynold’s number range, which is difficult to achieve because it has primarily been higher. They successfully obtained thrust and are now transitioning into the second part of the project.

Part 2

The team is currently working to narrow the ranges to two conditions and compare it to a fin with different surface boundary conditions. The varied conditions on the fin serve to decrease the friction with the water. The less friction there is, the less drag there is, and the less drag there is, the more thrust there will be.


In part one of their research, the team successfully obtained thrust in their data.  What this basically means is that they were able to see the artificial fin flap like that of a fish, while submerged under water.  In attempt to replicate how a fish moves, they observed some thrust. The challenge was that the team was operating at a lower range than Reynold’s number, which is the successful range for thrust to occur, as demonstrated by numerous previous research. Because water acts differently, it was difficult to figure out how to get thrust in a non-thrust condition.

Additionally, because of how time-demanding the experiment has been, equipment has worn down. For example, the team’s tunnel collapsed, thus spilling water everywhere and extending the damage to other equipment. The team also struggled to find glue that worked for the fin underwater because water’s properties do not favor those of glue. Furthermore, water’s characteristics, including its evaporative properties, made it difficult to maintain repetition.


Hays is currently collecting and analyzing data of two different systems: One fin with a lower friction boundary condition, and one without. The team is currently setting up the system and collecting data over vertices that were formed by the movement of the fin.


If you are interested in research, do not be afraid to pursue it. People who are considering research often feel overwhelmed by the technical terms, but there are mentors and various resources available to guide you through it. If you complete a course and find that you loved it, pursue something in that area! Do not let that ambition go to waste.

Thank you, Abigail Hays!