Each year, a number of graduate students in Mechanical Engineering receive fellowships to support them in their studies. In 2009, six of these recipients were asked to share some thoughts on their experiences at MIT:
Alex V. d’Arbeloff Fellowship Fund
"MIT has been somewhat of a shock to my system, but I am slowly getting accustomed to the pace and culture. After 8 months here my brain feels like a marathoner who is just reaching their stride. I am honored to be around so many motivated and brilliant students and faculty.
My research right now involves studying the possibility of using cork composites in wind turbine blades. The project originally comes from the MIT/Portugal program and was tasked with finding new uses for granular cork-- the remnants that are left over after the high-quality material has been removed to make wine stoppers. I have just joined the project this semester and have spent much of the semester learning about wind turbines and wind energy as a whole.
The cork project was not what I originally intended to be researching when I came to MIT and the d'Arbeloff Fellowship has allowed me the flexibility to find the right research project for me, instead of being tied into one project or another for the funding. The fellowship has also allowed me to ease into my research here, in terms of the time commitment, because I have not been "on the payroll" of any one project. This has really been an enormous help for my transition."
Warren M. Rohsenow Fellowship Fund
"When I was applying for graduate school, I was lacking confidence and did not dare to think about sending an application to MIT. Encouraged by an MIT alumnus, also a professor of mine in Stony Brook, I tried and got accepted by the mechanical engineering department. There were two main reasons why I chose to come to MIT.
First reason was that MIT was the only master’s program I applied to. When I visited the department for open house last year, I was debating whether I really desired to switch to mechanical engineering because I had not even used a milling machine before. “How can I survive as a mechanical engineering graduate student with biomedical engineering background?” I asked myself. I still decided to go ahead and challenge myself, but first start with placing myself in a master’s program. The second reason, also the biggest determining factor, was that I was awarded a Rohsenow Fellowship.
With this funding I was able to easily pick any research lab I was interested in. As a result, I entered Dr. Ian Hunter’s Bioinstrumentation Lab and started to continue doing research on material mechanics. Since June 2008, I have been working on investigating the effects of temperature and carbon nanotubes deposition on mechanical properties of a conducting polymer, polypyrrole. Besides building upon research experiences, I have been enjoying learning how to build a temperature controlled bath, how to machine a model, and many aspects of mechanical engineering I dreamed to learn. MIT has provided me wonderful experiences and enormous resources that I could ever dream of."
Warren M. Rohsenow Fellowship Fund
"I enjoyed immensely my experience in Course 2 as an undergraduate, highlighted by my product design courses, and my internships and undergraduate thesis project with Project Sound, a division of the Bose Corporation developing an active automobile suspension system. Eventually, when the opportunity to enter the Graduate Program came, I was excited to continue at MIT. Since I was able to finish the undergraduate program early, I also took the chance to intern with the iPod/iPhone Product Design group at Apple in between my undergraduate and graduate programs.
The Rohsenow Fellowship was tremendously useful to me personally as I arrived at my current course of research. Coming into the graduate program, I knew a little about my interests, and much about my motivation (i.e. sustainability), but I had many more questions than answers. For me, the knowledge that I had secure funding through the year allowed me to explore more deeply what it was that I wanted to pursue. In fact, I took a chance in exploring the more materials-science concerned aspects of silicon wafers, and found that was not where my interests lay. I learned a great deal and enjoyed the experience, but found that it was not for me. The flexibility of the Rohsenow Fellowship allowed me to explore potential avenues before arriving at one that I am truly excited about."
Karl H. Otte Fellowship Fund
"At MIT I quickly decided on mechanical engineering for a major. I chose it because I liked where it fell in terms of theory vs. practicality. While at MIT as an undergraduate I found a very good balance between academics and other activities. I found a leadership role as floor president, in which I gained a lot of social insight by organizing rush and resolving conflicts.
I also found a love for intramural sports, in which I could enjoy a variety of sports such as hockey, soccer, ultimate, dodgeball, water polo, football and basketball in a relaxed environment at a fun skill level. Hockey especially I have latched onto, growing up in Florida I didn’t have any experience besides some rollerblading. I have the ice skating PE twice, the hockey one three times, and I generally play for 2-3 IM teams. I’ve moved from a good D league player to a good D+/medium C player.
I had such a good time at MIT I decided to stay, and the Otte fellowship has made that easier. The fellowship eliminated a good part of the stress and awkwardness in finding an adviser, and I am grateful for that. In my research I am trying to replace hearing aid impressions with an optical technique to improve hearing aid performance and comfort."
Nathan H. Cooke Fellowship Fund
"I am very grateful for the opportunities that the Cooke fellowship has allowed me to partake in the last couple of years. Not only have I broadened my educational and technical experiences, but also life experiences.
Over the last two years, I've come to understand that I really enjoy working with people and any work that I do has to involve that aspect. I have been seeking out opportunities that would allow me to relate to people and their needs while using my engineering skills. For my thesis, I worked closely with a professional golfer who is missing his left arm above the elbow to develop prosthesis for him. He wants to use my prototypes to help veteran amputees use golf to transition back to civilian life. Additionally, I have been listening into several education classes and have been working with a middle school class. Coming from MIT, I am able to bring in lots of gadgets that they learn about but never get to see or use, furthering their learning. This summer, I will be teaching a Women's Technology Program, where 60 female high school students will be introduced to engineering.
Looking around, I see a lot of needs that can be solved by active community members and being aware of how one, as an individual, or with a group can help the general good of the society."
Warren M. Rohsenow Fellowship Fund
"As a kid—and even through my high school years—I remember building things and working with my hands. In fifth grade, I won my first design competition for the Children’s Snowplow, a pedal-powered toy car designed for plowing snow. As I got older, I was still designing, but my inventions became more advanced. In high school, I set up a home intercom system to allow communication between floors; I also built a bandage wrapper for the school athletic trainers. By this point in my life, it was apparent that I enjoyed building things, working with my hands, and understanding how mechanical systems worked.
Once at MIT, I began with the standard, institute-required classes like everyone else. I selected mechanical engineering as my major, and began taking relevant classes my sophomore year. I really enjoyed the classes I was taking; I learned a lot, worked really hard and was very successful. During the summers I always looked for internships: After freshman year it was one with Biogen Idec; sophomore summer was at a liquid-cooling company named Lytron; after junior year, I worked at Beacon Power where they were trying to develop flywheels for energy storage. I matured through these industry experiences, but as I entered senior year, I realized that I was drawn more towards research and academia. I also discovered that I really liked being at MIT, so I applied to the graduate program.
The excitement from acceptance to the Master’s program was lessened by uncertainty in funding and research topic. The funding came first, in the form of the Rohsenow fellowship. I learned that Professor Rohsenow was not only a generous donor but was committed to MIT and its future. Coincidentally, I’m working in the Rohsenow lab, where a plaque bears his picture and name. Making this personal connection—putting together name, face, and accomplishments—gives me an even deeper appreciation for the fellowship."