Shuman scholarship lights the way for undergrad researcher

Sarah Price
November 11, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Daniel Shoemaker, a fifth-year undergraduate student studying mechanical engineering at Penn State, was awarded funding for his research as part of the Shuman Scholars program. This initiative gives students an opportunity to conduct a long-term research project during their undergraduate career in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. 

“If the Shumans’ goal was to turn Penn State undergrad students into Penn State grad students, they succeeded with me.”

-- Daniel Shoemaker, a fifth-year undergraduate student studying mechanical engineering at Penn State

Shoemaker works alongside his mentor, Sukwon Choi, the Kenneth K. and Olivia J. Kuo Early Career Professor and assistant professor of mechanical engineering, to research gallium nitride LEDs. By studying the temperature of these advanced LEDs, he hopes to figure out different ways to mitigate the rising heat that the components generate and cool it more efficiently. This project aims to extend the lifetime of LEDs and is used in multiple different applications including phone screens, light bulbs and automotive lighting.

“We all use technology, our phones, our TVs,” Shoemaker said. “If we want to be more energy efficient and have them work properly, this work is critical to increase the lifetime and efficiency of the LEDs right now.”

Penn State mechanical engineering alumnus Clyde Shuman and his wife, Nancy, of Allentown created the Shuman Scholars program in the mechanical engineering department in 2004. The program’s goal is to facilitate a growing interest in research and a passion to pursue a graduate degree in mechanical engineering.

“I joined Dr. Choi’s thermodynamics course, and he was talking about his work in the class. He wasn’t just teaching it for fun; it applies directly to his research,” Shoemaker said. “He told me to look out for opportunities to work with him and that’s how I came to this project. I get to work with Dr. Choi. That’s something I never would have expected to be able to do at Penn State.”

The support from the Shuman scholarship has been invaluable to his career, Shoemaker said. 

“They’ve given us the funding to do the LED work, led by me. I don’t think I’d be able to have this opportunity without the Shuman scholarship,” he said. “I never would have thought grad school was an option, but because of the program, I am going on to get my Ph.D. next year.”

Shoemaker also contributes to another research project in Choi’s lab. It revolves around making sure that electrical devices work in harsh environments, such as outer space. A major focus is measuring the change in temperature after the devices are exposed to radiation, since in space there is a lot of proton irradiation. Studies indicate there is a 70 to 100% increase in temperature in the devices when they are exposed to these environments. 

While much of his time is devoted to research and his mechanical engineering classes, Shoemaker is also pursuing a minor in entrepreneurship. He always thought that he would start his own business after getting his bachelor’s degree. He even placed second in the Smeal Supply Chain Pitch Competition with a company called Friendly Fuelers, which brings gas and car services to parked cars. 

“If you would have asked me if I was going to grad school last year, I would have said no. It was not on my radar at all,” Shoemaker said. “If the Shumans’ goal was to turn Penn State undergrad students into Penn State grad students, they succeeded with me.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 11, 2019