Emily Joyce Ma
Cockroaches can be teachers
Yikes, is that a huge cockroach scampering across the floor? Nope, that's just Emily Ma's research project, a robot designed to look something like a cockroach and to use the same kind of tactile feedback that helps cockroaches scurry along baseboards. Ma, a mechanical engineering student at Stanford, designed the robot as part of her studies of tactile feedback in cockroaches.
"I've been doing research on the robot, which I call Sprawlette," she says. "Nobody has looked at tactile feedback. Nobody has built a robot antenna."
Ma is about to get her bachelors in mechanical engineering, but she is already deep into coursework for her masters. She took several masters-level courses even while still pursuing her undergraduate degree. And as her studies deepen, she is learning the growing connection between mechanical engineering and biology and the life sciences. It's a connection many engineers in the medical-device field have spotted, and one that has prompted a few, including former Design News Engineers of the Year, to develop incredible design breakthroughs. "I've started to realize the importance of biology in engineering," says Ma.
E-mail Emily at email@example.com.
Wind tunnels lift his spirits
Wind tunnels are Erik Kabo's laboratories. They swept him up back in high school when he created a science fair project on the lift and drag principles that allow airplanes to fly. When he graduates from Georgia Institute of Technology and moves on to the real world, he's determined to stay in wind-tunnel research. "My dream job would be working at NASA Langley," said Kabo.
Right now, he is doing his wind tunnel research for Aerospace Systems Design, an engineering firm where he spends part of his time as a Georgia Tech student. He is still studying lift and drag, doing data collection and reduction, and alternates semesters of full-time study and full-time research.
He is also president of the Georgia Tech chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, an organization he joined to meet friends. But when he volunteered for the Website committee, he stepped in deep and ended up leading the organization. He now counts fellow members among his college mentors.
E-mail Erik at firstname.lastname@example.org.
She Deals in
Christiane Gumera's dream job once she graduates from MIT's School of Engineering this June is to work in the field of tissue engineering. But, she is also weighing whether she will go on to graduate school to study biochemical engineering.
Tissue engineering's appeal to her is in its connection to biology—and to the medical benefits that come from it. She has spent a lot of her time at MIT mixing her engineering interests with biology. She's been doing the tissue work as part of her course and lab work. The goal is to grow cells outside the body. If you can do that, she says, you can put the cells back inside the body and the body will accept them with no side effects. She is also interested in the aspect of tissue engineering that leads to proteins for medications.
Her interest in engineering began in high school when she entered design competitions, including one in which she created a car that ran on its own for 30 ft. Originally from The Philippines, Gumera's parents are both accountants who brought her to Florida when she was nine. After high school she took off for college, hoping to find a greater community of women interested in engineering.
She found that community at MIT when she got involved in the Society of Women Engineers. "My membership in the organization has been very helpful since they have mentoring programs," she says. Christiane now holds the position of publicity chair with the group.
E-mail Christiane at email@example.com.