A Merger of Engineering and Medicine
As she finishes up her undergraduate work in engineering at MIT, Jen Clarke is struggling with her next step. Should she continue at MIT and grab a master's in medical engineering in a joint program with Harvard? Or would it be better to pursue an M.A. as a physician's assistant closer to home at George Washington? The question comes down to a philosophical choice between the world of research versus life as a practitioner.
Clarke is determined to bring together her mutual interests in engineering and medicine. She's just not sure whether she prefers the long lonely road of research or the instant gratification of patient contact. "In research, you can impact many people, but it takes a long time—years," explains Clarke. "In medicine, it's a smaller impact, but it's daily."
Clarke comes from a small farming community in Maryland where she was the first student in 15 years to go off to MIT. The roots of her twin ambitions in engineering and medicine began with her grandparents. The two disciplines are a merger of her grandparents' interests. "Engineering and medicine are mostly family-oriented for me," says Clarke. "My grandfather was an electrical and nuclear engineer." Meanwhile, Clarke's grandma did blood tests in a commercial home-based lab. "She had a bachelor's and a master's in biology," notes Clarke. "So she's my medical influence."
E-mail Clarke at firstname.lastname@example.org
Exploring the Sociology of Computer Interfaces
From Mai Nguyen-Huu's point of view, there should be a conscious difference between computer interfaces for men and women. The computer science major at the University of California, Berkeley believes men and women perceive the world differently, so their website designs and other computer interfaces should reflect that difference. "There are reasons women are more drawn to certain patterns," explains Nguyen-Huu. "Most computer games are oriented toward men, particularly in their use of violence."
Nguyen-Huu notes that in order to attract women, computer games need to appear and behave differently. She points to Sims City, a game popular with young women. She explains that it's attractive to women because players can choose their own roles, and it's not violent. Nguyen-Huu believes games designed specifically for women can help families change how they see women.
Nguyen-Huu has blended her interest in computer science and sociology by pursuing an engineering degree in computer science with a co-op in sociology. Her interest in engineering began with her dad, who introduced her to the computer when she was very young. This was followed by an ongoing desire to solve puzzles.
When she graduates next year, Nguyen-Huu wants to take her dual interest in computers and sociology and do something that can make a difference in the lives of young women. "I would like to have some influence in changing things," explains Nguyen-Huu.
E-mail Nguyen-Huu at email@example.com
Keith Frederick Becker
Looking at the Combustion Behind the Thrust
Keith Frederick Becker decided what he wanted to do for a living after spending two NASA internships playing with rockets. The Georgia Tech grad student spent one semester at the Langley Research Center in Virginia working on the computer modeling of an experimental inflatable space structure. "These structures might be used for a boom used to launch satellites, or they could provide a habitat area." Becker's next intern spot was at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida where he worked on biological payloads, ground control testing, and anomaly investigations.
As he finishes his master's in aerospace engineering, which builds on his bachelor's in the same subject, Becker has his heart set on NASA. "I'm specializing in combustion," explains Becker. "I want to work with launch vehicles, either conventional or experimental, such as a next-generation space shuttle."
Becker wants to participate in the design and development of a shuttle that could take off and land like an airplane and bypass the awkward and expensive rocket booster. "Conceptually, it's possible to fly into space," says Becker. "If the shuttle takes off like an airplane, it would be safer and cheaper."
And like most scientists drawn to the space program, Becker harbors a big childhood dream. "Like most people in this field, I want to be an astronaut," admits Becker. As an engineer, Becker believes he stands a chance of realizing that dream. "Engineering is the most common background for astronauts."
E-mail Becker at firstname.lastname@example.org