All Aboard! SURF Program Allows Student to Study his Passion – Trains
All Aboard! SURF Program Allows Student to Study his Passion – Trains

by Jackie Hennessey
UNH Today Contributing Writer


Dave Cranshaw
UNH Today Editor

It was just past six in the morning one day this summer, and Dan Delgado ’17 was on a Metro North train. He was leaving the station in West Haven, preparing to conduct more work as part of his Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), which included an extensive examination of the propulsion systems in electric trains.

Less than 10 minutes after boarding, the train stopped at the station in Milford, where Nikodem Poplawski, a senior physics lecturer and Delgado’s SURF adviser, hopped on.

Dan Delgado ’17

“To my pleasant surprise, Dr. Poplawski came trotting down the aisle with a coffee in his hand and a smile across his face,” remembered Delgado. “He graciously dedicated many hours aboard the trains with me to observe my field research and assist with my calculations.”

Video by Joe Adams '14 and Matt Scripter '14

Delgado is one of a record 50 students who participated in the SURF program over the summer. The students will share their research during a poster presentation on Wednesday, Sept. 16, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Alumni Lounge in Bartels Hall.

According to Delgado, speed restrictions in the Northeast – due to geography, infrastructure issues and congestion – require trains to bounce between high and low speeds throughout a route, often causing them to lose time. The best way to optimize the performance of the trains is by increasing the efficiency of the electric motor used for propulsion.

“I’ve loved trains since I was a little kid,” said Delgado. “I actually thought that they were magical. I always wondered how they operated and what made them run. Eventually I was old enough to start learning how the railroad worked. Then I came to UNH, started studying engineering and just fell in love with it all over again and realized it was something I wanted to pursue as a career.”

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