Announcing Summer 2022 PEAK Experiences Awardees

Several engineering students and science students mentored by COE faculty are recipients of Northeastern’s Summer 2022 PEAK Experiences Awards. Working alongside dedicated mentors on projects ranging from creating an archive of the nation’s first rural settlement house in Appalachia to bioprinting brain material to building better underwater robots to understanding contemporary philosophies of risk, our Huskies are poised to create, discover, and make big impacts.

BASE CAMP AWARDS
Andre CaetanoAndré Caetano COE‘24, “Project COBRA”
Mentor: Alireza Ramezani, COE, Electrical and Comp Engineering
I hope to complete the design as well as the assembly of a sheath and sheath attachment system that will protect the snake-inspired robotic system from lunar dust while traversing the environment. Beyond that, want to help complete a mid-project report detailing progress updates for the BIG IDEA 2022 Competition.
Talin CalikyanTalin Calikyan COE‘25, “Rapid Prototyping Tools And How To Use Them”
Mentor: Mark Sivak, CAMD, Art and Design
This project will explore rapid prototyping tools– as simple as children’s arts and crafts materials– and the important role they play in product development. I will focus on how we determine the relative strengths of each to fulfill specific needs and implement my research in classes and makerspaces.
Michael CernyMichael Cerny COE‘26, “Mental Illness in Engineering Higher Education”
Mentor: Andrew Gillen, COE, Civil & Environmental Engineer
An autoethnography with the purpose of researching and providing an in depth review of mental illness in higher education, specifically the engineering program at Northeastern University.
Lucas HaberLucas Haber COE‘24, “Designing an Extendable Screw to Facilitate Lightweight Underwater Robotic Arms”
Mentor: Tom Consi, COE, Electrical and Comp Engineering
I hope to prototype and finalize a gear design that allows for the easy rotation and extension of a grip meant to interact with the surrounding environment of an underwater robot.
Nethra IyerNethra Iyer COE‘24, “Comics as a Learning Tool for Chemical Engineering Education”
Mentor: Lucas Landherr, COE, Chemical Engineering
The goal is to create single-paged comics about chemical engineering. These comics will serve as learning tools for students to visually understand and grasp difficult chemical engineering concepts taught in college.
Jonah JaffeJonah Jaffe Khoury‘25, “Coding an Intuitive and Assistive ROV Control System”
Mentor: Tom Consi, COE, Electrical and Comp Engineering
This project aims to design an intuitive control system for an underwater remotely operated vehicle. I plan to implement a precision driving mode and a height auto-adjustment mode using sensor data to help aid pilots.
Katrina LeKatrina Le COE‘26, “Developing Methods to Quantify Molecular Expression in 3D Elbows”
Mentor: Sandra Shefelbine, COE, Bioengineering
This project consists of cell proliferation analysis through 3d images of axolotl elbows in order to examine the effects of joint formation. I will utilize MatLab and Fiji in order to perform limb alignment, surface map generation, and surface map analysis.
Alexandra Vergara-AnglimAlexandra Vergara-Anglim COE‘26, “The Effects of E-cigarette and Wildfire Smoke on Cell Senescence in Mice”
Mentor: Sandra Shefelbine, COE, Mech & Industrial Engineering
I will be studying the effect of senescence in bone tissue that has been exposed to E-Cigarette smoke or wildfire smoke. I hope to use various methods to test the difference in senescence between the two groups.
ASCENT AWARDS
Philip AndressYiyang LiuChris SwaglerPhilip Andress COE’24, Yiyang Liu COS’25, Chris Swagler COE’23, “Cable Driven Parallel Robot”
Mentor: Thomas Consi, COE, Electrical and Comp Engineering
Historically speaking, cable driven parallel robots have existed within a small academic and commercial niche. It is our ambition to determine whether these machines can be designed, installed, and operated in a way that is practical for use as a general purpose motion platform. We will accomplish this by creating a cable driven parallel robot with a design centered around affordability and usability.
Sophia CabellonSophia Cabellon COE’23, “The Utilization of Case Studies in the Education of Prototyping for Engineers”
Mentor: Mark Sivak, CAMD, Art and Design
In this research, we seek to study how using case studies in engineering case studies will help novice engineers learn about prototyping. We will create our own case studies, deploy them in engineering classes, and assess how students’ perceptions of prototyping change over time.
Jonathan ChenJonathan Chen Khoury’25, “Modernizing the Front-end User Experience of Open Source Educational Software”
Mentor: Joshua Hertz, COE, Mech & Industrial Engineering
Recently, an open-source software called gruepr was developed to facilitate the student group creation process. It allows professors to quickly and easily optimize groups based on user-specified parameters. However, the application’s current UI is rudimentary, and can make gruepr seem daunting for new users. The goal of this project is to modernize gruepr’s user experience, by developing a minimalist design and updating visual assets according to a tester group’s feedback. These changes will be presented at both RISE and a regional conference for ASEE, and will also be available in gruepr’s next update for users around the world.
George HagopianGeorge Hagopian COE’24, “Musical Instrument Simulations for Deep Learning Applications”
Mentor: Victor Zappi, CAMD, Music
Deep learning is a type of machine learning that uses multiple layers in its neural network to extract higher-level patterns from input data. It can be used to design lightweight models that can approximate the behavior of very complex systems, such as musical instrument acoustics. The aim of this project is to create a collection of open-source numerical models of musical instruments specifically designed and organized for deep learning training, and to attempt the training of a first deep learning model, using datasets from a simple simulated musical instrument. The results will be presented at RISE 2023.
Dhruv JatkarDhruv Jatkar Khoury’25, “Elucidating and Visualizing Interactions in Microbial Communities”
Mentor: Benjamin Woolston, COE, Chemical Engineering
This project aims to investigate and visualize computational methods for the analysis of microbial communities. Microbial communities play a critical role in the climate sector, human health, and beyond. While interactions between microbes can be expensive to explore in-vitro , constraint-based simulations allow a glimpse into microbial consortium at a metabolic level. I will use relevant simulation techniques such as flux balance analysis, graph-based algorithms, and network analysis modules to explore and visualize data models of microbes. The product will be an open-source Python library with robust documentation to be presented at related conferences and used in publications.
Adri LanzaAdri Lanza COE’25, “Building a Highly Adaptable Frame for an Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle”
Mentor: Thomas Consi, COE, Electrical and Comp Engineering
Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) are becoming important in both research and industry. In terms of research, scientists are in need of robots to collect data on the effects of climate change on the world’s oceans. In industry, ROVs are used on offshore oil rigs and are soon to be used significantly more with the rising popularity of offshore wind farms. My goal is to create an underwater ROV frame that is affordable, lightweight, versatile, and hydrodynamic. This allows anyone in the underwater robotics community, whether a beginner or an expert, to use this ROV frame for their research.
Claire MaClaire Ma Bouve’25, “Activity-Triggered Neuronal Regeneration In C. elegans”
Mentor: Samuel Chung, COE, Bioengineering
Defining neuronal regeneration mechanisms can improve treatments of central nervous system (CNS) diseases. While CNS neurons rarely regenerate, dorsal root ganglion neurons can regenerate in C. elegans models using lesion conditioning: with conventional, dual-leucine kinase dependent regeneration, and conditioned, CRH-dependent regeneration. This project will observe the impact of neuronal activity in conventional and conditioned regeneration through the manipulation of sleep-related genes osm-11 and nlp-22, and egg-lay regulating gene egl-47 in hermaphrodite specific motor neurons. We expect increased activity to decrease conditioned regeneration, and have no significant difference in conventional regeneration. I plan to present my findings at the RISE conference.
Dominic PizzarellaDom Pizzarella COE’26, “Development of a Heart on a Chip Microdevice for the Evaluation of an Electro Conductive Hydrogels Function”
Mentor: Ryan Koppes, COE, Chemical Engineering
This project is based on the study of Organ-on-Chip technology, specifically hydrogels (3-D cross linked networks of insoluble, hydrophilic polymers), to test the successfulness of this platform to be used for drug delivery and medicinal screenings. I hypothesize that an electro conductive hydrogel will efficiently promote the flow of ions, therefore will offer accurate simulations of in-vivo cell interactions, specifically the cardiovascular system for this project. This will involve testing the electrical activity in the hydrogel using microelectrode arrays, as well as viability assays, and designing a heart-on-a-chip. I hope to present the results at the RISE and BMES conferences.
Melania St CyrMelania St. Cyr COE’23, “Building an Affordable and Universally Applicable Underwater Electronics Cylinder”
Mentor: Thomas Consi, COE, Electrical and Comp Engineering
My project’s goal is to create an electronics enclosure for a variety of underwater robotics applications. The enclosure will be adaptable to different tasks, affordably priced, hydrodynamic to reduce drag underwater, and will include thermal management to prevent overheating. A cylindrical hydrodynamic enclosure will be developed in tandem with a customizable electronic control system. The electronics system will be demonstrated as a central control system with various peripherals such as cameras and thrusters. Once both parts of the project are designed and tested above water, they will be combined and tested underwater as a cohesive unit.
Madeline SzooMadeline Szoo COE’25, “Development of Liposomal Istradefylline as TNBC Treatment”
Mentor: Debra Auguste, COE, Chemical Engineering
Istradefylline (KW6002) is a hydrophobic anti-cancer drug that acts as an A2A antagonist – a receptor that mediates the suppression of the anti-tumor immune response. In this project, we will conduct an in vitro study to investigate the effectiveness of istradefylline encapsulated within a liposomal drug-delivery system. In doing so, we will first, synthesize liposomes containing istradefylline; second, analyze the size and zeta-potential of the liposomes using dynamic light scattering; third, characterize the liposomes by calculating the encapsulation efficiency and drug loading capacity of istradefylline; and fourth, evaluate the ability of loaded-liposomes to bind to the target receptor.
SUMMIT AWARDS
Sid AnnapragadaSid Annapragada COE’24, “Ringing a Bell: Human Control of Complex Objects With Internal Collisions”
Mentor: Dagmar Sternad, COE, Electrical and Comp Engineering
In everyday activities, humans constantly manipulate complex objects with internal dynamics, such as a cup of coffee. A little-explored area is how we control entities that involve internal collisions, for example a bag with groceries or an old-fashioned bell and clapper. We examined kinematic and kinetic data from subjects ringing a bell-and-clapper in a virtual environment with a haptic interface. Based on our recent work, we hypothesized that humans seek to generate predictable and stable dynamics of the bell-hand system. This experiment shed light on how humans solve such difficult control problems, which can help roboticists create more dexterous robots.
Thomas DaviesSamira HajjThomas Davies COE’24, Samira Hajj COE’23, “Building a Waterproof Gripper Arm with Four Points of Actuation”
Mentor: Thomas Consi, COE, Electrical and Comp Engineering
We are making a fully submersible robotic gripper which will have the capacity to grab, rotate, and extend to accomplish a number of tasks that include repairing energy arrays, mapping shipwrecks, and planting coral. On top of these, designing and building a cost effective robotic arm with these abilities will benefit much more in underwater exploration, ocean research, and the health of our oceans. We are planning to present our work at RISE and if our tests return good enough results, we plan on publishing a paper on our findings.
Julia KautzJulia Kautz COE’23, “Tracing Glioblastoma Migration Behavior via Bioprinted Brain Tissue”
Mentor: Guohao Dai, COE, Bioengineering
Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) brain tumors are one of the deadliest and most invasive of all forms of cancer. Tracing how GBM cells make decisions in terms of invasive migration is effective in understanding how GBM cells are sensing the tissue matrix surrounding them. The study highlights 3D bioprinting, a technique that utilizes biomaterials to 3D print and replicates natural tissue. An understanding of tumor migration from this novel approach can conceivably improve the precision of therapy that currently destroys a significant amount of healthy brain tissue, as well as malignant cells, during treatment.
Chase LeffersChase Leffers COE’24, “Mitosis: Mark 3”
Mentor: Oleg Batishchev, COS, Physics
The Mitosis project is an expansive and multi-threaded approach towards empowering individuals with decentralized and sustainable micro-manufacturing capabilities. An algae chamber, primarily self-manufacturable 3D printer, multi-hopper filament fabricator, and several speed and precision improvements for 3D printing have been designed and partially built. Initial research has found that many of these projects are feasible, though larger in scope and challenge than initially determined. The next steps for this project include the final assembly of the core 3D printer, an automated algae-harvesting system, and the construction of the multi-filament extrusion assembly to enable algae to be converted into printable material.
Grace McDonoughGrace McDonough COE’23, “Investigating the Impact of Wetted Microtexturing on Friction Behavior in Microchannel Flow”
Mentor: Carlos Hidrovo Chavez, COE, Mech & Industrial Engineering
Exploring the effect of microscopic surface texture on the way fluids flow in small devices has the potential to enhance customizability and efficiency for devices across industries, from automotive HVAC to neurological drug delivery. This project will use both physical experiments and computational modeling to probe the underlying physics of the way liquids move through small spaces and to understand whether and how the presence and shape of microscopic surface texture impacts device performance. Results will be shared in a conference presentation.
Katherine MillerKatherine Miller COE’23, “Characterizing the Extracellular Polymeric Substance (EPS) Produced by Eubacterium limosum”
Mentor: Benjamin Woolston, COE, Chemical Engineering
This research is aimed at characterizing the composition and genes involved in the synthesis of EPS, a slime-like substance, by the acetogen Eubacterium limosum . Little research has been done to study the EPS produced by this organism, and understanding its composition and genetic pathway augments our knowledge of its function and ability to eliminate its synthesis. HPLC analysis will be performed to evaluate the polysaccharide composition.To determine the role of genes involved in its production and potentially eliminate its synthesis, knockouts and qtPCR will be performed for identified genes of interest.
Michael ShenMichael Shen COE’23, “Mitigating the Effects of Side-Channel Attacks in Next-generation Microarchitectures”
Mentor: David Kaeli, COE, Electrical and Comp Engineering
Hardware security research ensures data integrity across billions of devices and maintains the viability of high-performance computing within the cloud. Common improvements to a computer’s architecture, such as speculative execution and branch prediction, often leave instruction level information temporarily vulnerable to attacks like Spectre. We hope to develop a methodology for detecting and mitigating the effects of Spectre attacks through the use of open source simulators and frameworks. We evaluate two branch predictor designs to understand the relationship between predictor design and memory access patterns in hardware attacks such as Spectre.
TRAIL-BLAZER AWARDS
Gillian AudiaGillian Audia COE’23, “Fabrication of Microneedle-like Particles for High Bioavailability Oral Peptide Delivery”
Mentor: Vasiliki Lykourinou, COS, Chemistry & Chemical Biology
Our project goal is to engineer a technology platform for high bioavailability oral protein drug delivery with high reliability to help reduce patient burden and potentially increase patient compliance. I plan to develop and characterize microneedle-like particles for oral protein delivery that penetrate the epithelial barrier in the gastrointestinal tract to enable high bioavailability and achieve consistent drug delivery profiles. I hope to have several top candidate microneedle-like particles for further testing in vivo and to share the results of our project at the 2022 Materials Research Society Fall Meeting.
Sarah BensonSarah Benson COE’23, “Optimization of Media-type in the Generation of Giant Plasma Membrane Vesicles Delivery to Excitable Cells”
Mentor: Ryan Koppes, COE, Chemical Engineering
Excitable cells are cells that exchange ions through channels in the cell membrane. When these channels are damaged, it results in diseases like Parkinson’s disease. Previous work used viruses to deliver channels to affected cells, but this has limitations. Giant plasma membrane vesicles (GPMVs) provide a new solution. GPMVs are small spheres of fluid encapsulated in a piece of the cell membrane. This study’s aim is to investigate different ways to produce GPMVs and assess which will provide the highest expression of a light-gated ion channel, Channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2). This work will be presented at the RISE expo in Spring 2023.
Amanda DeeAmanda Dee COE’23, “Utilizing an Inducible System to Regulate Activators of Alkaloid Biosynthesis in C. Roseus
Mentor: Carolyn Lee-Parsons, COE, Chemical Engineering
Catharanthus roseus, commonly known as the Madagascar Periwinkle, produces two important anti-cancer compounds. However, these compounds are in limited supply due to year-to-year crop variability and a low natural abundance in the plant. Therefore, the goal of our group is to regulate the biosynthetic pathway that produces these compounds to increase production. We have already identified the areas that we would like to regulate, so my goal is to develop the tools to do so. I’m hoping to present my work this summer at a plant biology conference and to be co-author on a paper.
Shanthi HedgeShanthi Hegde COS’25, “Biosensing Hydrogen Sulfide utilizing Closthioamides”
Mentor: Benjamin Woolston, COE, Chemical Engineering
Hydrogen Sulfide in high concentrations has been shown to reduce disulfide bonds, contributing to IBD and Colon Cancer. CTA (Closthioamide) is produced by probiotic anaerobe Ruminichlostridium cellulyticum , which inhibits growth of clinical pathogens–making it a promising target. Utilizing the CTA pathway in R.cellulyticum , the project aims to enhance sulfide sensing in the gut to improve applicability in therapeutics. Polysulfides will be quantified utilizing RT-qPCR, LC-MS, strain engineering, and biosensor testing employing a promoter library. Ultimately, we hope to engineer Ruminichlostridium into a novel sulfide biosensor to enhance polysulfide concentration detection. This research will be presented at ASBMB and ACS.
Giona KleinbergGiona Kleinberg COE’23, “Eliminating Barriers to Computational Analysis of Single-cell RNA Sequencing”
Mentor: Sara Rouhanifard, COE, Bioengineering
There is a growing gap between complex single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) analysis methods and the ability of researchers to apply them to solve pressing biological issues. The goal of this project is to bridge this gap by synthesizing information on these modern bioinformatic methods, comparing their quantitative and qualitative features through meta-analyses, and programming use pipelines that will help facilitate understanding and usability of the various methods of analysis. I plan to share the results of this project through drafting a publication in a peer-reviewed journal, submitting the work to multiple conferences, and presenting at RISE.
Victoria RobbinsVictoria Robbins COE’22, “Fundamental Studies of Electrolyte Additives in Li-S Batteries for Polysulfide Generation”
Mentor: Sanjeev Mukerjee, COS, Chemistry & Chemical Biology
The goal of this project is to explore and analyze the effect of fluorinated additives on Lithium-Sulfur (Li-S) battery performance using in situ Raman Spectroscopy. Li-S batteries have approximately five times more energy storage capability than the leading chemistry of Li-ion batteries. Problems, including dissolution of lithium polysulfides (LiPS), plague the cell and prevent its commercial viability. The use of fluorinated additives in the electrolyte has shown promise at tackling this issue, but still requires significant understanding of the reaction mechanisms. Thus, this project will utilize in situ Raman Spectroscopy to analyze the effect of LiPS on Li-S battery performance.
Ke WenChloe Wen COE’22, “Investigating the Effect of Mechanical Forces on Glycocalyx Dysfunction with Tunable Hydrogels”
Mentor: Sidi Bencherif, COE, Chemical Engineering
As a global epidemic, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (CVD) continues to impose tremendous economic and health burden on countries. Glycocalyx (GCX) has been identified as a new therapeutic target whose dysregulation is associated with CVD development. Herein, we aim to utilize novelly designed hydrogels with tunable properties to model healthy to diseased vascular conditions. Using this model, we can understand GCX expression in response to matrix stiffnesses resulted from disease- or age-mediated vessel stiffening, which will reveal the effect of biomechanical forces on GCX dysfunction in CVDs. Results from this study will be presented at RISE Expo and external professional conferences.
Alan ZhangAlan Zhang COE’24, “Effects of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor on Schwann Cell Migration”
Mentor: Rebecca Willits, COE, Chemical Engineering
Over 20 million people in the US suffer from loss of motor and sensory function due to peripheral nerve injury (PNI). Schwann cells (SCs) promote the regeneration of PNI, so encouraging their migration to sites of PNI may be an effective mechanism of PNI therapy. I plan to examine the effect of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which has been shown to promote PNI regeneration, on SC migration. I accomplish this by characterizing VEGF receptors on SCs using flow cytometry and tracking SC migration under different VEGF concentrations. My results will direct future studies on VEGF’s effects on SC migration.

Related Faculty: Thomas Consi, Mark Sivak, Joshua Hertz, Benjamin Woolston, Samuel Chung, Ryan Koppes, Debra Auguste, Dagmar Sternad, Guohao Dai, Carlos Hidrovo, David Kaeli, Carolyn W.T. Lee-Parsons, Sara Rouhanifard, Sidi A. Bencherif, Rebecca Willits, Alireza Ramezani, Andrew Gillen, Lucas Landherr, Sandra Shefelbine

Related Departments:Bioengineering, Chemical Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering