Kothari designs antennas for PURE program

ECE News

Charlie Johnson, ECE ILLINOIS

Story Highlights

  • ECE sophomore Nikunj Kothari participated in the Promoting Undergraduate Research in Engineering Program (PURE) this past spring.
  • PURE pairs underclassmen interested in doing with research with a graduate student mentor.
  • Kothari explored the world of antennas as they relate to modern, wireless communications.

Not long ago, if you had asked ECE sophomore Nikunj Kothari to describe what came to mind when he thought about antennas, he probably would have mentioned something to do with rabbit ears on television set.

Nikunj Kothari (right) stands with Jacob Adams, his graduate student mentor. Kothari designed and fabricated electrically small antennas as part of the PURE program.
Nikunj Kothari (right) stands with Jacob Adams, his graduate student mentor. Kothari designed and fabricated electrically small antennas as part of the PURE program.

That is no longer the case.

“In class I learned that antennas really are the basis for all communications. And when I started, I had this image of antennas as being outdated things sticking out of cars. So, I knew I wanted to learn more about how modern antennas actually work in communications,” said Kothari.

Kothari  spent the Spring 2010 semester designing and constructing antennas as part of the Promoting Undergraduate Research in Engineering (PURE) program. The program pairs freshmen and sophomores—who typically would not have an opportunity to conduct independent research—with a graduate student mentor who oversees their project, offering advice and guidance to the new researcher.

Kothari fabricated electrically small antennas (antennas that are physically small as compare to the size of their wavelengths) which are vital components to modern wireless communication because of their size and relative power. Using an antenna milling machine, Kothari designed several antennas with different designs and features which he then tested to determine the most efficient combination of features.

“It was experience, and I got to apply what I had learned in my electromagnetic course in the lab, which was a lot of fun,” said Kothari.

By the end of his semester, Kothari learned how to design and mill antennas, measure their efficiency, and added a wealth of practical experience to his electromagnetic course work. He also realized that as he continues with his education, potentially into graduate school, that he wants to focus on communications research.

“I got involved for some practical experience, and now I have some experience I can apply to graduate school. I know far more about what being a graduate researcher will be like,” said Kothari.

As part of the PURE program, Kothari worked with Jacob Adams, an ECE graduate student working in the field of antenna research. Adams initially spent time with Kothari instructing him on the basics of antenna physics and construction, almost like a professor would lecture a student. He then stepped back and offered advice and guidance when needed while Kothari completed his project at presented in at the Biannual PURE Research Symposium.

“PURE is a great first step into research and independent study. The professors and mentors give you a basic overview of an area, and then you get to figure out what you like and go and study it,” said Kothari. “I would definitely consider coming back as a mentor after my time in PURE.

Those interested in applying for the PURE program, or becoming graduate mentors, should visit the PURE Web site .

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