Empowering a Research-based learning experience

Knovel helps minority students gain real world experience and opportunity alongside engineering experts

Minority students are historically underrepresented in STEM education programs. However, through a recent collaboration between Drexel University and the Community College of Philadelphia called RISE, minority students got a hands-on research experience alongside engineering experts in topics like environmental engineering and textile engineering, which facilitated knowledge growth in STEM topics and furthered career opportunities. With the help of Knovel and Engineering Village to support their projects, these students ultimately paved the path toward their research, education and career goals.


Raising Interest in STEM Education, or RISE (Director: Dr. Antonios Kontsos, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering & Mechanics at Drexel University), was a three-year collaborative effort between Drexel University and the Community College of Philadelphia to pair underrepresented minority students with Drexel labs of their choice to embark on mentored research experiences in a fast-paced 10-week timeframe. RISE was structured to produce a collaborative ecosystem within the university, based on the premise that STEM teaching and learning can be most effective if paired with an actual research experience (e.g., research-based learning).

In this context, students were free to affiliate with any STEM research group on campus, based on their personal interests. Students’ research interests included clean energy systems, infrastructure monitoring, advanced manufacturing, environmental science and engineering, robotics, and space exploration.

In just 10 weeks from start to finish, having no more than an introductory background in science, engineering and math subjects, the students would work alongside faculty, graduate students and a librarian to produce a final oral presentation, a poster and the equivalent of a conference article.

R&D Solutions


The students’ challenge from day one was to engage with source literature to become familiar with their topics and pinpoint the current state of knowledge. This required the students to harness Knovel and Engineering Village to formulate research proposals, to be presented in front of a faculty panel and public audience, by week 4 of the program.

Marcus Spruill, a RISE scholar whose work focused on simulating thermal performance of functional fabrics, stated, Knovel and Engineering Village helped my research through their robust search features. Engineering Village made it easier to find source literature I needed for my project. It also supplied metadata that’s useful to find related research material, such as comparing relevant ASTM and ISO standards. Knovel has an excellent material property search tool, which I was able to use to incorporate in my finite element simulations.

Another RISE scholar, Joseph Kennedy, who focused on improving healthcare informatics in rural Uganda, agreed. Engineering Village and Knovel are some of the most valuable tools I had at my disposal. Scientific research wasn’t something any of us were familiar with. But we had to first do just that, research. RISE pushed us to identify the state-of-the-art in our fields and go beyond.

I could research ‘smartly’ using Engineering Village, Knovel and ScienceDirect. It would not have been possible to be successful in this extensive research experience without the valuable tools and mentorship that Drexel Libraries provides.

Kerrianne Parrish, RISE Scholar


In parallel to their research, the students integrated within the ecosystem of the university through participation in seminars, visiting classes and networking with graduate students, faculty, staff and industry professionals in Fortune 500 innovation-driven companies. After completing the program, the students proceeded to earn prestigious Department of Energy Community College Internships, NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF-REUs) experiences, and enroll in four-year engineering degree programs. Several former RISE students are now employed in engineering firms.

Knovel has an excellent material property search tool, which I was able to use to incorporate in my finite element simulations.

Marcus Spruill, a RISE scholar

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