starkville — What’s education without opportunities?
Aric Lambert, a Ph.D. candidate at Mississippi State University doesn’t have to ask himself that question. His experience at MSU’s Engineering Research Center for Computational Field Simulation has opened up a whole world of opportunities to pursue his love of computer research — or maybe it’s the other way around.
Lambert said he and his fellow students who work at ERC, both graduate and undergraduate, can feel pretty confident about their futures in academia, the government or industry.
“The ERC certainly doesn’t do it itself, but it gives you the opportunity to be pursued,” said Lambert, who noted that MSU grads who have worked at ERC have moved on to such prestigious and groundbreaking companies as IBM, Sun Microsystems and Lockheed.
A native of Miami, Fla., Lambert came to MSU two years ago after getting his undergraduate degree in computer information systems from the University of Alabama and a master’s degree from Ball State.
Although he had spent time in the South, his decision to come to Mississippi and MSU was frowned upon by everybody from his peers and teachers to schools like Drexel and Princeton where he was weighing his options. Nearly everybody told him he was throwing away a promising career. Even his parents weren’t too pleased.
“When I told them I was going to Alabama they were a little nervous,” he said. “My last thought was to come to Mississippi.”
But all that began to change with his initial visit to MSU and the ERC. And his subsequent experience of working with faculty, fellow students and outside professionals on various projects has proven to be invaluable. At ERC he not only gets to delve into theoretical problems but also is able to devise practical solutions for real world situations.
“Here, I have got the best of both worlds,” he said.
And that is exactly what the National Science Foundation had in mind when they developed the ERC Program 13 years ago. In addition to helping strengthen industry by creating key research centers around the country, the centers would provide industry with the next level of highly-skilled engineers and computer scientists.
Bradley Carter, deputy director of ERC and education director for the center, said more than 600 students have worked at ERC since its start eight years ago. More than 300 of those are students from Mississippi, a significant achievement for the center, he said.
“That’s were we see our biggest contribution,” Carter said.
At any one time, nearly 100 students work under the watchful eye of faculty and staff on any number of projects.
Carter said at least two-thirds of those students are graduates and another third are undergraduates — coming from various backgrounds, including electrical engineering, computer engineering, computer science and even art and architecture.
By exposing students to real world problems and students from different disciplines, Carter said they are more prepared to tackle the outside world when jobs come calling. “They learn what it takes to get the job done,” he said. “Students who have this experiences on their resum