Undergrad Reiner Wins Top Award Over Graduate, Post-Doc Students

December 17, 2019

Libby Reiner headshotBATON ROUGE, LA – Elizabeth Reiner, a senior electrical engineering major in the LSU College of Engineering, recently received the Best Poster Award at the 86th Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society.

What makes the award special is that Reiner, a native of Metairie, La., beat out a field of undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students in receiving the honor.

“I was in total disbelief,” Reiner said. “There were a lot of excellent projects in the poster session, so I didn’t think I had a shot at the award. Not in a defeatist mindset; just being realistic that my poster was one of more than 50 excellent posters, so mathematically, the odds were not in my favor. It was such an honor and I am so proud to have been recognized at my first academic conference.”

Reiner’s poster detailed her research topic of atomic force microscopes, which are a type of characterization equipment that uses a tiny probe to “see” samples on an atomic and sub-atomic level. Specifically, Reiner’s research topic was to design a low-cost, homemade AFM that uses a different method to detect the change in sample height in a way that makes the device easier to operate and consequently, accessible to a wider array of researchers.

Reiner was able to attend the conference thanks to winning funding as a top prize at the LSU Summer Undergraduate Research Forum. She won for the same poster presentation she presented at the SESAPS conference.

In reflecting on the win, Reiner was quick to credit her faculty mentor/research supervisor, Theda Daniels-Race, professor of electrical engineering at LSU.

“The best help that Dr. Daniels-Race gave me was to hand me the reins,” Reiner said. “She told me that she wanted me to design a low-cost AFM that we could make ourselves and that she wanted me to decide the rest of the goals myself. That was terrifying at first. I had no idea what I wanted to do and I didn’t feel qualified to make large decisions about the project.

“[Her] hands-off approach forced me to learn so much and I really grew as a researcher because of it. I still met with her every week or so to talk about my progress, and she gave me useful advice about the specifics of navigating a literature search and overcoming difficulties that come with doing a process for the first time. Had she not given me so much freedom to choose my own approach, I would not have learned so much about the research process or my specific topic. I cannot thank her enough.”


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