Rose-Hulman Students Showcase Their Talents Nationally with Summer Internships

Friday, November 04, 2022
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Several Rose-Hulman students, including (clockwise from left) Elsa King, Sarah Shibuya, Sophia Gospodinova and Luci Duncan, participated in noteworthy Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) projects this past summer.

Several Rose-Hulman students participated in noteworthy Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) projects this past summer. The REU internships are funded by the National Science Foundation and are often competitive to obtain. The following seven students showcased their talent at research sites across the United States, from Stanford in California to Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. 

Luci Duncan, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering, researched Chiari malformation through the Cleveland State University Rehabilitation Engineering Program (RE@CSU). Chiari malformation is a structural defect in the base of the skull and cerebellum in which brain tissue extends into the spinal canal. Duncan’s project looked at cerebral spinal fluid flow under specific conditions in Chiari patients. When Duncan posted her research experience on LinkedIn, she received several comments from Chiari patients thankful for her work.

“I knew how to use instruments that nobody else heard of,” said Duncan of how Rose-Hulman helped her stand out among her peers. “I was one of the only biomedical engineers there, so I came in with experience with physiology and anatomy of the spine and taught other people on the team about it. I also knew how to use the Instron machine and nobody else did.”

The RE@CSU program requires interns to apply to present their research at a conference. Duncan’s projects were accepted for poster presentations at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists (ABRCMS) and she will present her research at the conference in California this November.

Sophia Gospodinova, a junior majoring in chemistry, interned at Texas A&M University where Gospodniova synthesized derivatives of materials that could be used as solid refrigeration material. Their work revolved around the field of sustainable chemistry. Gospodinova worked on changing the phase of material that’s used to make energy with the goal being to create refrigerant material that is environmentally friendly.

They also spent time attending sustainability seminars and working in the field of organic chemistry. Gospodinova found the internship extremely valuable, as it allowed them to practice chemistry and gave them experience seeing how a large research institution conducts research projects. Gospodinova credits their years at Rose, especially the chemistry curriculum and experience in chemistry research, as helping them succeed at Texas A&M. Their goal after graduation is to obtain a doctorate in chemistry.

Nathan Hurtig, a junior majoring in computer science and mathematics, examined math principals at University of Maryland. He spent the summer working on a pure math equation that had not yet been solved. Hurtig was one of 15 students accepted as an intern out of 200 applicants. As a result of the internship, Hurtig discovered a new sequence of numbers that has never been studied before.

Hurtig found the internship extremely valuable, not only for studying math, but meeting students from other universities, including Ivy League colleges, and seeing how Rose has given him an exceptional education.

“After a few weeks, I learned the material and forged ahead of my partners, which really says something about Rose,” said Hurtig. “Rose does not hand you answers. You are given a set of things to do and general guidelines, but you have to take the extra steps to get there. That really prepared me for open-ended math solving skills because I was standing at a white board for a week and wouldn’t make progress. But I pushed myself more and found it. It was that ethic that Rose instilled in me that helped me in the internship.”

Elsa King, a junior majoring in biomedical engineering, was one of 30 applicants (out of 500) selected to intern at Wake Forest University where she mapped subject-specific cortical thickness to models to prevent hip fractures.

“The main goal was to make patient-specific femur models, specifically for people with osteoporosis, so we can study if they were to fall, what their fracture risk would be,” said King, who is also a Noblitt Scholar. “I spent the summer working on writing an algorithm to take the cortical thickness of patient data and add it to the model we were building.”

King and her injury biomechanics research group received a second-place award for their work. She credits Rose for helping her prepare for the internship, especially with respect to independent work and problem solving.

Ellen Shales, a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering, interned with the University of Wisconsin’s behavioral neuroscience lab studying autism in adolescents. Her project specifically involved tracking eye movements of adolescents while they played a computer game to learn how the kids subconsciously picked up on contextual cues. Shales analyzed the eye movement data that was obtained. Shales, who is also a Noblitt Scholar, credits Rose’s biomedical engineering program with giving her the confidence to intern in the field.

“The biggest diagnostic component of autism is abnormal social behavior,” said Shales. “In the computer games, they are behaving properly and picking up on social cues in the environment. If we can understand how the kids are picking up on the contextual information without being told, then we can better understand how they process the data and use that to help their behavior in situations.”

Sarah Shibuya, a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering, spent her summer at the Vanderbilt Institute for Nanoscale Science and Engineering’s cancer metastasis lab working towards finding treatments. Specifically, Shibuya worked with E-selectin, which binds white blood cells to liposomes to deliver TRAIL, a protein that forces metastasizing cancer cells to die.  Shibuya received best overall poster for her research project. She was also invited to attend the National Conference for Undergraduate Research in spring and asked to showcase her work at the Biomedical Engineering Society Conference in San Antonio in October.

Shibuya, who is also a Noblitt Scholar, found the internship incredibly valuable, not only for the learning component, but for helping her determine that research is the path she wants to pursue for a career. Upon returning from Vanderbilt, she began working on an independent study project with Professor Ross Weatherman, PhD, about breast cancer drugs. She plans to obtain a doctorate degree in biomedical engineering or biology, focusing on neurodegenerative diseases or cancer research.

Hannah Snider, a junior majoring in chemical engineering and chemistry, spent the summer at Stanford University examining the characterization of membranes and nanomaterials. Snider worked specifically with a polymer called polydicyclopentadiene (pDCPD), which is used in items like automobile parts and bullet proof vests. She analyzed the crosslinking of pDCPD inside a nanocomposite matrix to learn how to fine-tune the material properties of the polymer. Snider credits Rose and the hands-on experiences she had for helping her to into this research internship at Stanford incredibly well prepared.

“At the end of the summer, I met with the head of the lab and research group [Dr. Reinhold H. Dauskardt] and he said he cannot believe the preparation I had for this experience,” said Snider. “He said, ‘We are so impressed with what you demonstrated in the lab as an undergraduate and this is kudos to your university.’ He also told me that I was guaranteed a spot in his lab for graduate school.”