Testing and Experimental Data Processing Optimization of a Frequency Response Function Based Structural Damage Identification Method
Leikune Aragaw,Civil and Environmental Engineering, 2015
Thesis Advisor: Professor Anne Raich

Q: How and when did you select your advisor and the thesis committee members?
A: I approached Professor Raich in my junior year to see if I could work with her on a summer research project. I chose to work with her because her past projects were very interesting and I had taken one of her classes. She was happy to work with me and the summer project later on transformed into my honors thesis. My committee members were professors Stephen Kurtz and Yih-Choung Yu. I chose to work with Professor Kurtz because of his experience in structural dynamics and experimental design, and Professor Yu because of his experience in signal collection and processing.

Q: When did you start thinking about your thesis? How did you select your topic?
A: I knew I wanted to write a thesis in my junior year. As I mentioned earlier, I worked on a research project in the summer of that year. Since the project was very interesting and I wanted to continue working on it, it became the basis for my thesis.

Q: How did you start tackling your thesis project at the very beginning?
A: I started with a literature review. I needed to understand and analyze basic concepts and past works before I could start experimentation. My advisor helped start this process by suggesting a few articles and books.

Q: Did your advisor explain the structure of a thesis project to you?
A: Yes, Professor Raich gave me two thesis papers and a dissertation, completed under her guidance, to show me how to structure my project.

Q: Did you have to do a literature review? Had you ever done one before?
A: Yes, I did, but it wasn’t my first time.

Q: Do you remember receiving correspondence from the library about your honors thesis?
A: Yes. Also in the spring of my junior year, I received an email about a brownbag for students considering a thesis project. The brownbag was a great way to start thinking about my project.

Q: What did you find most challenging about your thesis project?
A: My project incorporated some concepts that were very advanced and/or not in my field of study. Trying to fully understand all the details was a difficult task, but with time, patience, and, most importantly, help from my committee members, I was able to increase my proficiency in the advanced topics.

Q: What did you find most rewarding about your thesis project?
A: Building my own models and being able to test them was very rewarding.

Q: What assistance did your advisor/department offer you throughout the course of the year?
A: Professor Raich was always eager to meet and help me anytime I had problems. My department helped with purchasing equipment. I was able to apply for funding through the department.

Q: Did you meet with librarians in the course of conducting your research? How many times and at what stages of your research?
A: I met with a librarian twice. I learned about various online research databases and Refworks.

Q: What other kind of support did you rely on throughout the year to accomplish your thesis (IT, parents, friends, etc.)?
A: Becky Rosenbauer and Marvin Snyder helped me assemble the apparatus for my experiments. A few of my friends, who were also working on thesis projects, supported me throughout the whole process.

Q: Were you able to get access to all of the research materials you wanted for your project?
A: Yes, some took more time and effort, but I accessed everything I needed.

Q: Would you do anything differently if you went through the process again?
A: I would spend more time in the fall designing my experimental setup. This would have eliminated some of the challenges I had in the spring.

Q: What advice would you offer other honors thesis students, especially in your department?
A: Manage your time properly by meeting regularly and setting deadlines with your advisor and be prepared for things to go wrong.