Summer scholar profile: Jenny Skerker

Each year, the Summer Scholars Program awards funding to a select group of rising juniors and seniors from across Tufts academic disciplines, to carry out ten-week independent research projects. This summer, we’ll be profiling three engineering students as they work on their projects.

skerker.JPGName: Jenny Skerker
Hometown: Lexington, MA
Major: Environmental engineering, E17
Faculty mentor: Associate Professor John Durant

Project: Over the last several years, you might have seen a Tufts RV driving around Boston. That RV, operated by Tufts CEE graduate students and equipped with fast-response air pollution monitoring equipment, was collecting data on air quality throughout the city. Skerker will bring some of that data into an analysis program called AERMOD to model air dispersal patterns from the northbound and southbound Central Artery Tunnel exits beneath downtown Boston  a particular focus that hasn’t been studied before. “My question that I’ll be trying to answer,” Skerker says, “is: where is this pollution going [when it exits the tunnel]? Does it affect neighboring communities? What’s the downwind direction?”

More information: Big road blues

Messner writes on autonomous cars

Bill Messner, John R. Beaver professor of mechanical engineering, recently wrote about advancements in autonomous car technology and about the future of these self-driving vehicles. Messner opined that “the prospect of greatly reducing accidents, injuries and deaths due to reckless driving, drunk driving, distracted driving, impaired driving, speeding and road rage means that increasingly automated cars will be a fact of life in the years ahead.”

Read the full article in The Conversation and the Boston Business Journal.

Vandervelde elevated to IEEE senior member

Associate Professor Tom Vandervelde has been elected to the rank of IEEE senior member.

The IEEE is the world’s largest association of technical professionals, with the objectives of the educational and technical advancement of electrical and electronic engineering, telecommunications, computer engineering, and allied disciplines. Of the IEEE’s more than 415,000 members, fewer than eight percent hold this honor.

Tufts engineers invent “smart” thread

Illustration demonstrating how the thread collects data and transmits it to a flexible wireless transmitter atop the skin.

Engineers at Tufts invented a thread that wirelessly collects real-time diagnostic data when sutured into tissue. The thread-based diagnostic platform could be an effective substrate for a new generation of implantable diagnostic devices and smart wearable systems. The research was published in the journal Microsystems & Nanoengineering and has been featured in a number of media outlets, including The Economist, WBUR, IEEE Spectrum, and STAT.

Authors included Tufts alumni Pooria Mostafal and Kyle Alberti, who were PhD students at the time of the research; Assistant Professor Qiaobing Xu of the Department of Biomedical Engineering; and Associate Professor Sameer Sonkusale of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, alongside colleagues from Harvard Medical School’s Biomaterials Innovation Research Center, the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Science and Technology, and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

Georgakoudi elected to senior member of SPIE

Irene Georgakoudi, associate professor of biomedical engineering, has been elected to the grade of Senior Member of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics.

SPIE Senior Members are members of distinction who are honored for their professional experience, their active involvement with the optics community and SPIE, and significant performance that sets them apart from their peers.

Panetta speaks on women in engineering

Karen Panetta, professor of electrical and computer engineering and associate dean of graduate education, was interviewed by CNNMoney about how female engineers can navigate the pay gap and a predominantly male culture.

Full article: Women with engineering and computer science degrees have their pick of jobs

Tufts in Talloires: An uplifting journey’s end

This summer, two students from the Bridge to Engineering Success at Tufts (BEST) program blogged their experiences from Tufts in Talloires, a six-week summer program that offers students a dynamic group of courses taught by Tufts faculty in Talloires, France. In addition to coursework, a wide variety of optional outdoor activities, weekly hikes into the Alps, field trips, and organized events offer each student the opportunity to explore the unique Haute-Savoie region of France. 

By Michelle Chan

Michelle and Hernan at the base of the mountain, ready to paraglide.

Michelle and Hernan, ready to paraglide.

From the edge of the mountain, the entirety of Lake Annecy stretched before me. I collected all the trust I had in my body for the instructor strapped behind me, to obey his shout, “Don’t sit! Run! Keep running!” So I ran right off the mountain. The ground fell away beneath my feet, or maybe my body was floating. Either one could be correct depending on the reference frame, but neither mattered because I was flying. My eyes followed the cords attached to the harness on my body, up, up, up, to see only a piece of fabric holding me afloat in a vast sky. I started screaming. There was no fear left in me, only exhilaration at life’s possibilities.

In the sky, I located Hernan, my fellow BESTie, soaring alongside me. Exactly a year ago, we were arriving at Tufts for BEST summer session, barely getting to know each other. Just like we entered college together, we supported each other throughout our fall and spring semesters. We traveled to Turkey and Germany together before arriving in France. Just last week, we went paragliding. As I flew higher, breaking into a cloud, I realized that I never would have found so much success and fulfillment without the support of BEST and my amazing community.

France has been a new experience that was made better by friends like Hernan sticking up for each other through challenges, whether or not they were unique to being in a foreign country. After Talloires, when Hernan and I return back to Tufts ground, I want to continue the practice of lifting up others in all contexts of life, even those beyond engineering. We are more than just our professions, but also bodies, minds, and souls that need acknowledgement to reach our highest capabilities.

Michelle Chan is a rising sophomore from Eugene, Oregon, majoring in computer engineering.

Tufts in Talloires: Flying out with determination

This summer, two students from the Bridge to Engineering Success at Tufts (BEST) program blogged their experiences from Tufts in Talloires, a six-week summer program that offers students a dynamic group of courses taught by Tufts faculty in Talloires, France. In addition to coursework, a wide variety of optional outdoor activities, weekly hikes into the Alps, field trips, and organized events offer each student the opportunity to explore the unique Haute-Savoie region of France. 

By Hernan Gallegos

Ready to step off the mountain.

Ready to step off the mountain

“Trois… Deux… Un… Allez!”

Not even three steps into my walk, I realized I wasn’t walking anymore – I was gliding. Suspended only by a parachute, I did what others always say not to do: I looked down. I could see the trees, Lake Annecy, Talloires, the city of Annecy, and even my own home! While my guide was concentrating on the air currents, I had time to reflect on my experiences.

I have analyzed several things throughout my time in France. Through my courses, excursions, and the many people in the program, I realized there was no way for me to use my engineering mind. Personally, I’m glad that this program enforced more of a liberal arts mentality. In the long run, this mentality affected me big time.

As I felt motion sickness from the air currents, I dwelled on the events that arose from this program. Some were enjoyable, while others were questionable. However, I don’t regret being involved in the program. It showed me the world we actually live in and that I know what I can be working towards as an engineer. Being suspended in the air reinforced my passion to become an aerospace engineer, but with a twist.

As I landed on my butt, I thought, “What if I wasn’t exposed to these experiences in Talloires? Would I be the same?” I realized that I wouldn’t. This exposure showed me that as an engineer, I should still remember the humanities as well, or else things will go corrupt within my mind. This entire experience further emphasizes a quote that I strongly believe and that others should understand as well:

“Engineering without humanities is insanity.”

P.S. I’m very glad to have traveled with my fellow BESTie, Michelle Chan!

Hernan Gallegos is a rising sophomore from Atlanta, Georgia, majoring in mechanical engineering.

Tufts in Talloires: Looking closely

This summer, two students from the Bridge to Engineering Success at Tufts (BEST) program are blogging their experiences from Tufts in Talloires, a six-week summer program that offers students a dynamic group of courses taught by Tufts faculty in Talloires, France. In addition to coursework, a wide variety of optional outdoor activities, weekly hikes into the Alps, field trips, and organized events offer each student the opportunity to explore the unique Haute-Savoie region of France. 

By Michelle Chan

The view from Michelle's bus stop to Talloires. Napoleon's Hat is visible in the top right.

The view from Michelle’s bus stop to Talloires. Napoleon’s Hat is visible in the top right.

Even in week five of the program, friends here still ask me, “Where is Veyrier-du-Lac?” Talloires is a village and Annecy is a small city. The bus route spans eight nauseatingly bumpy miles between the two, while Veyrier-du-Lac, my home, marks roughly a midpoint. Even though the bus passes Veyrier every day, you might miss it if you blink. Here, everything seems tiny.

Yet small is hardly synonymous with dull. Even though I walked through most of the streets already, each scene is full of rich details worthy of notice. By the lake, glistening water laps the banks of the shore from gravitational pulls. Turning around, a little mountain peak hovers over houses. Locals call it “Napoleon’s Hat,” perhaps because of its triangular shape.

Walking around, plants grow everywhere. Satisfyingly, I can identify some species that were learned on weekly Monday field trips in my Flowers of the Alps class. Many of them look similar at first sight, but spending a few more seconds in observation distinguishes details that set the species apart.

In case I want to look even closer, I can use the loupe hanging on a string around my neck to magnify a flower. The tiny parts reveal information that I typically overlook. The ovary, once pollinated, begins growing into what we may recognize to be fruit. Through the lens, I see fruit so unripe that, well, they aren’t even considered fruit yet.

To be honest, I barely use the loupe on my walks, but I also rarely take it off. Maybe I keep it on when I go to bed for efficiency’s sake, so that I have it when I need it. Or maybe I wear it as a constant reminder to find fascination with the details of my everyday surroundings.

Michelle Chan is a rising sophomore from Eugene, Oregon, majoring in computer engineering.

Tufts in Talloires: My melting pot, le version français

This summer, two students from the Bridge to Engineering Success at Tufts (BEST) program are blogging their experiences from Tufts in Talloires, a six-week summer program that offers students a dynamic group of courses taught by Tufts faculty in Talloires, France. In addition to coursework, a wide variety of optional outdoor activities, weekly hikes into the Alps, field trips, and organized events offer each student the opportunity to explore the unique Haute-Savoie region of France. 

By Hernan Gallegos

Hernan and friends in Menthon St. Bernard after a swim in the lake.

Hernan and friends in Menthon St. Bernard after a swim in the lake.

To be honest, I probably would have had a horrible time here in Talloires if I was alone. The experience of being here is amazing, but if I was here by myself, I would have been miserable. I didn’t experience that due to one major reason — well, several individual ones. The friends I have reunited with, and the new ones I’ve met, keep me going. We have all kept each other going throughout these six weeks outside of our comfort zones.

I did not expect to build this close of a connection with each one of these people I now call friends. I shouldn’t be surprised, since we all have a similar identity. We are first-generation students and young people of color. We come from all across the country. From California to Maine, we each bring something to our very own melting pot.

We usually plan things the day when we want to hang out. Great timing, I know.  But once we get together, an ample amount of hilarious jokes and memorable moments take place. Whether hanging out and swimming in the lake, or eating at a great Italian restaurant, we have all become a big family. A common notion that comes up between us is our experiences within our daily lives. What I can mention, since these are very special moments for us, is that after we share our stories, we strengthen our bonds with one another.

These bonds continue to grow as we approach the end of the program. I can happily count on these people, these friends, to be there for me and vice versa. I know this sounds like a complete cliché, but it’s something that I stand by and strongly believe. Tufts University will soon see this bond in action back on campus. Together, we cannot fail.

Hernan Gallegos is a rising sophomore from Atlanta, Georgia, majoring in mechanical engineering.