Undergraduate Students Initiate an Academic Engineering and Science Research Journal

January 19, 2010

January 19, 2010 — With their peers producing a rich and diverse body of research that at times rivals graduate-level work, a group of University of Virginia undergraduate engineering students saw the need share this research with a wider audience.

Their answer? The Spectra: The Virginia Engineering and Science Research Journal.

The Spectra, an annual undergraduate research journal, is now in production by students at the U.Va. School of Engineering and Applied Science. Christopher Belyea, a fourth-year chemical engineering student, originated the idea early this fall and has initiated an aggressive campaign to organize the staff and resources required to publish a professional-quality, peer-reviewed journal.

"Our goal for the journal is to increase the exposure of engineering research, applied science research and engineering design," Belyea said. "The Spectra will provide a new publication platform for undergraduate students U.Va."

The Spectra editorial and production staff – made up of 23 students – is on track to publish its first issue next spring. They began accepting submissions for the issue on Dec. 1.

The staff plans to publish undergraduate research annually with a threefold purpose: to provide publication opportunities for undergraduates catering to the engineering sciences, to promote a community of research at U.Va., and to serve as an educational and recruiting tool for prospective students. It aims to publish faculty-sponsored and peer-reviewed papers reflecting a wide range of topics reflecting the core values of technical and scientific credibility, relevancy and originality.

"The Spectra is a unique initiative because it demonstrates the enthusiasm and speed with which U.Va. students have responded to meet the need for publication opportunities for technical research," said Ian Czekala, a fourth-year student majoring in aerospace engineering.

To ensure the accuracy and relevancy of the research it publishes, The Spectra will employ a multi-layered peer-review process, an academic standard for research journals.

"This system ensures that the journal is technically and scientifically sound," said Eric Fried, fourth-year chemical engineering major and secretary of The Spectra's editorial board, "The fact that the papers will be reviewed by peer editors of the same discipline of study guarantees the credibility of the journal."

The Spectra's peer-review process will involve an initial review of submissions by a faculty member and will call on two editors from the University community to review research papers.

Beyond the U.Va. academic community, The Spectra staff plans to reach a wider audience by distributing it to every high school guidance counselor office in Virginia.

"High school students will be able to see that we are doing real and exciting research, which they, too, can have the opportunity to participate in at U.Va.," said editorial board member Liz Dobrenz, a first-year engineering student.

The Spectra team is now working to secure funding that will provide for the continued publishing of the journal in future years.

"The viability of this journal is my foremost concern," said treasurer Garrett Wheaton, a fourth-year chemical engineering student. "We are working hard to secure continued funding for this much-needed service to the University community."

For information, contact spectra@email.virginia.edu or visit the Web site.

To make a donation to The Spectra, visit the Alumni Association's online giving site and specify The Spectra as the recipient in the write-in box.

— By Eric Fried