Category Archives: Students

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

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.

Tufts in Talloires: A word of support offered by watermelon and ice cream

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

BEST4_MichelleAbout once a week, a certain ice cream shop in Annecy has been emptying out my wallet, five euros at a time, in exchange for three scoops of cold bliss. I have yet to try all 58 flavors, but my favorite one so far is lychee. It tastes almost like biting into the white flesh of the fruit itself.

Mentally, I keep a full list of justifications for this new spending habit, but the most satisfying one is that my mom wants me to treat myself well while I’m in France. Remembering times of greater financial difficulty, every unnecessary purchase was accompanied by guilt. Now, each bite of ice cream is a personal victory for allowing myself a simple luxury. Since college, I am thankful that my worries revolve around academics more than my basic needs.

Currently, I feel nervous about starting my first paper in college for my Global Health Crises class. My entire freshman year, I somehow managed to avoid writing a single paper. The majority of my work consisted of projects and problem sets, to which I became fairly accustomed. However, I always believed writing to be an important skill for engineers to express ourselves. The material in this class reinforces this belief through assigned readings of epidemiological studies. Words communicate methods and results, laying groundwork for the contribution of others. By writing this ten-pager, I hope to improve my ability to produce words that achieve a purpose.

I also want to share one peculiar custom I learned from my host family. We get to make a wish for eating our first watermelon of the season. Even from France, my thoughts keep returning to the queer people of color who were victims in the Orlando shooting this weekend.  For all those affected, I wish they find healing and peace.

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

Tufts in Talloires: Dancing to your heart’s desire

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 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

The site of Hernan's improv class.

The site of Hernan’s class on dance, movement, and the creative process.

If I were to tell you to close your eyes and dance like no one is around, would you do it? How about in a room with 15 others? That, mi amigo, was the introduction to my “Dance, Movement, and Creative Process” course.

Within the first few classes, every student enrolled felt some form of discomfort with certain activities within the course.  Wouldn’t you feel the same way when you are expected to move around the room like noodles from a ramen cup? I was as stiff as those noodles before being cooked. I didn’t understand the purpose until I read the required readings.

Improvisation was the main aspect of the course—how we move within our own boundaries, both mentally and physically. At first, I took improvising as its literal definition: “create and perform spontaneously or without preparation.” But after reading the articles, I was compelled to view improvisation as a multivariable process. My engineering mind obviously kicked in, thinking of multivariable calculus.

The mind isn’t the only thing that contributes to improvising. The people, feelings, sounds, and atmosphere all contribute to one’s idea of improvising. It isn’t something procedural. It’s something that goes along with the ideas of an engineer, but with a more human twist.

The more time I spend in this course, the more human I feel. At first, I thought many of the ideas contradicted those of an engineer. But thinking more into it, I feel like it helps give more of an open perspective for an engineer. For me, it is a way of escaping the engineering mentality and remembering that I am still human with many uncertainties. Knowing that, I can use that mentality to go headfirst into the world. Huh, doesn’t that sound familiar?

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

Tufts in Talloires: A Sunday morning

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

Michelle blog - lunch

A quiet Sunday lunch (and studying) in Talloires

For the third consecutive Sunday morning, I woke up in the same bed. I assessed the kitchen, deciding to grill mini open-faced peanut butter and peach baguette sandwiches for breakfast. Of course, I also made coffee. I read the news. I washed the dishes and played an hour or two of piano. And I felt that nothing was out of the ordinary.

Wait. Seriously? Yeah, I guess it happened. Somehow, I found a sense of normalcy.

At the beginning of the program, everything was so new and exciting that I had my phone pointed out the window of every bus ride, ready to take another hundred photos of the French countryside. As the excitement ebbed into contentment, I stopped taking blurry photos from moving vehicles to enjoy the moment. Now, I sit quietly on the bus to watch the lakefront, the silly pollarded trees, and the paragliders in the sky.

There remains one thing here that still incites amazement and probably always will. In The Priory, the Tufts European Center building, a Model O Steinway grand sits on the stage of MacJannet Hall. Like any Steinway, its tone is rich and dark, but this one is particularly warm to my ears. The keys were forgiving of my rusty fingers, which stopped practicing consistently upon entering freshman year of college.

Before college, classical piano may have been the only constant through three different high schools and five moves. Having played more this week than I have all of last semester, I can safely announce that this painful, yearlong hiatus has officially ended now.

Starting off, I attempted to revive Brahms’ “Rhapsody in G Minor” on my host family’s upright piano, thinking I did a poor job. Before I could heave a sigh, a voice shouted through the open window, “Bravo!” And then, I knew that pigs will fly if I ever stop playing.

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

Tufts in Talloires: Engineering goggles

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 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

Bus stop in Talloires - Hernan

Waiting at the L’ecole bus stop in Talloires.

“Où allez-vous?”

“Annecy,” is what I responded when asked by the driver of the bus. Walking up the seamlessly big steps, my roommate and I found seats close to the front. For me, I wanted to see what the bus saw through its big headlights.

Minutes into the ride, we came across the first stop: L’ecole (the school). Going down the main road from the stop, one will end up at Le Prieuré (The Priory), otherwise known as the Tufts University European Center. It’s a 500-year-old building that contains antiques from since it was built. “How has this building lasted so long?” I wondered. Passing this stop, we went straight to Annecy.

Driving along the long road, I observed many old buildings, various roundabouts, and sharp turns. It made me wonder how a charter bus can get through so many obstacles on the road. Someone had to design it, right? How precise the angles of each turn, diameter and circumference of the roundabouts; the materials used for the aging buildings… Thinking about all this opened my engineering mind.

I cannot escape my engineering mentality, so being in Talloires further enforces my need to become an engineer. Observing and analyzing many of the things that Talloires and Annecy have, I realized that many of these features could not be here without someone coming up with various plans to create “perfect” things.

That word is in quotations since nothing is perfect, but it’s close to it, in this case. The creators made sure their creations lasted for a long time. I want to be a part of that. I want to create something that will last for centuries; that will help generations to come. To me, that is engineering: to help others within the community. My community.

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

Rezaee receives scholarship to attend GHC

HamidehCongratulations to electrical engineering doctoral candidate Hamideh Rezaee, who has received a full scholarship to attend the 2016 Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) of Women in Computing Conference.

The event will take place in Houston, Texas in October, and is the world’s largest technical conference for women in computing. Attendees are able to take advantage of networking, mentoring, and collaborative proposals.