Robert J. Butera received the Georgia Tech Senior Faculty Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor Award at the Institute’s Faculty Staff Honors Luncheon, held on April 22 at the Student Center Ballroom. Butera is a professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), with a joint appointment in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.
Since joining Georgia Tech in 1999, Butera has worked with 58 undergraduates in his laboratory on directed research projects. His research focuses on the development of novel techniques for nerve stimulation and recording and studying the dynamics of neuro-electrical activity. His work spans both scientific/laboratory purposes and clinical/human subject applications, so his undergraduate researchers come from a wide range of disciplines.
Some students have been supported by sponsored research or programs such as the President’s Undergraduate Research Awards Program, the Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience Petit Scholars Program, and the ECE Opportunity Research Scholars Program. Undergraduate researchers work directly with Butera or in coordination with another graduate student or postdoctoral fellow in his lab. Those students supervised by graduate students or postdocs meet with Butera regularly throughout the semester and many attend his weekly laboratory meeting.
Besides direct mentorship, Butera taught a successful Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) Program called “Brain Beats” for several years that had 46 students enrolled and that developed a prototype of a wearable, wireless EEG device. Several of these VIP students transitioned to senior design projects or undergraduate theses or direct mentorship in his lab.
Butera is the founding faculty director of the Grand Challenges Program, which he led from 2012-2015. In addition to his existing mentorship activities, he facilitated three classes of 110 freshmen, where each class of 20 teams each year created a research or design project during their freshman year that most pursued during their sophomore year. Butera still serves as the faculty or technical advisor for two Grand Challenges teams.
At least 16 alumni from Butera’s lab have received or are pursuing doctoral degrees. Undergraduate researchers in Butera’s lab have gone on to graduate and postdoctoral studies at prestigious universities and are pursuing careers at companies like Gryphon Scientific, Honeywell, Covidien, Schlumberger, and Google. They clearly appreciate not only the research experience gained in the lab, but more importantly, Butera’s personal and professional guidance while they were at Georgia Tech, with many of those relationships still continuing today.
School of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Last revised May 15, 2020