I grew up in a small town in upstate New York. I was always drawn to traditional STEM topics and had typical interests of many technologically oriented kids: fixing bikes, working on motors, woodworking projects, and writing down my ‘inventions’ in a little idea book my parents had given me. I still think the backwards rake is going to be worth millions some day!
My small rural school did not have particularly developed science courses but a few strong teachers put together a complete program with the resources they had. In high school I took traditional STEM classes, but barely touched on anything engineering related with a drafting class being the closest thing they offered.
When it came time to graduate and go to college, I still barely knew what an engineer was.
Thankfully, I had a few family members who steered me towards a program in Ceramic Engineering. My undergraduate degree at Alfred University was a great base to my academic career.
During my time as an undergraduate student I was fortunate enough to participate in many laboratory-based classes which I really enjoyed. This interest in the laboratory lead me to take an independent course where I spent time in an academic-based research lab for the first time.
Thanks to this experience I was offered a post-B.S. research position at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the Ceramic Science Group. I had a wonderful time working in a world class national lab, participating in a variety of research projects involving different industries, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense.
I arrived as a PhD student at CU in the Fall of 2013, and while the research was great, after two years I decided to move to a new lab and met my current PhD advisor, Christoph Keplinger, who was just starting at CU.
I had been thinking of cutting my PhD program short before meeting him, but after talking to him about his research ideas in renewable energy and soft robotics we really hit it off and I decided to start up the new lab with him. It has been a great 3 years, and I have had the opportunity to work with some incredible fellow researchers and together we have put out some impressive work.
When I graduate in the end of 2018, I look forward to collaborating closely with the Keplinger Research Group as I lead a spin-out company to commercialize our research.
I decided to go to CU because of the mechanical engineering department. I have come to see how valuable its interdisciplinary collaborations are to tackling complex and worthwhile research problems and what it brings to the students, community, and world. I am very fortunate to be a part of research teams that have the skills and expertise to tackle multifaceted problems that leads to truly impactful research.
As far as the community here, I love that student leaders at CU are honestly heard and appreciated by our administration. CU is a very large school, but I have found it easy to rise up as a student leader both in my department and college.
I feel very valued for my service roles and that the college genuinely appreciates and empowers its graduate students. I have been able to make an impact in these communities beyond just my research and for that I am truly grateful.