Announcing Summer 2024 PEAK Experiences Awardees

Several engineering and science students mentored by COE faculty are recipients of Northeastern’s Summer 2024 PEAK Experiences Awards from the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.

Johnny AssadGruepr
Awardee: Johnny Assad Khoury’26
Mentor: Joshua Hertz, COE, Bioengineering
The project is called gruepr — a free, open-source platform used by schools to create optimal student groups. The software is based on information in this paper: The plan is to increase the scale of the software and make it accessible to more schools with different learning management systems. Additionally, the code base will be restructured to allow for easier implementations of new features.
Matthew GarciaEnhancing Omnidirectional Video Transmission through Super-Resolution Reconstruction
Awardee: Matthew Garcia COE’26
Mentor: Francesco Restuccia, COE, Electrical and Computer Engineering
This project aims to enhance images and video taken from omnidirectional cameras through the development of a deep super-resolution network, in turn reducing bandwidth and computation for immersive AR/VR experiences. By integrating semantic segmentation, quality and efficiency are optimized through selective transmission of vital objects. Expected outcomes include improved image reconstruction and reduced resource consumption. Results will be shared through academic presentations and open-source code dissemination on GitHub.
Elle ArcandCatalytic Role of Copper-Aβ Sequence Variant Complexes in Catecholamine Neurotransmitter Oxidation
Awardee: Elle Arcand COE’26
Mentor: Vasiliki Lykourinou, COS, Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative condition that is characterized by abnormal levels of amyloid-beta (Aβ) plaques in the brain. This project examines how suspected Aβ sequence variants and copper II complexes–metallopeptides–catalyze oxidative stress of catecholamine neurotransmitters by assessing the kinetics of these reactions. Moreover, it probes the specific amino acids of these variants involved in metal binding and thus which portions of the individual peptide sequences contribute to these catalytic abilities. Ultimately, insight on neurotransmitter oxidation kinetics and the inner workings of peptide structures could shed light on the biochemical role of Aβ in AD neuropathology.
Umme Hani BootwalaPhotoactuating Liquid Crystal Elastomer
Awardee: Umme Hani Bootwala COE’27
Mentor: Ruobing Bai, COE, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering
This project seeks to advance the development of a light-responsive liquid crystal elastomer by incorporating azobenzene, a photo-responsive compound, into the liquid crystal polymer. Liquid crystal elastomers (LCE) consist of lightly crossed polymer networks, which are composed of liquid crystals called mesogens. The study aims to investigate the impact of adjusting parameters such as thickness and molar ratios on the LCEs light response. The results will be measured through the amount of contraction. Additionally, the study will examine the coupling reaction between photo-actuation and thermal-actuation.
Ritika GurjarCreating 3D Printed Circuits Using Conductive Filament
Awardee: Ritika Gurjar COE’26
Mentor: Thomas Consi, COE, Electrical and Computer Engineering
This project seeks to explore the possibilities of conductive filament for use in 3d printing circuits. Instead of using the standard method of printed circuit boards to produce circuits for projects, this filament will be used to develop simple and complex circuits in a convenient and straightforward manner. This project will also work on creating, refining, and printing circuit components such as resistors, potentiometers, and inductors. The research conducted will be implemented by the Mitosis group at Northeastern Robotics to form a fully self-replicating 3d printer.
Valerie HoOptimization of Electrochemical Nutrient Recovery through Multivariate Statistical Analyses
Awardee: Valerie Ho COS’26
Mentor: Damilola Daramola, COE, Chemical Engineering
Phosphorus and nitrogen are key ingredients in fertilizers, but runoff causes environmental issues like eutrophication. While the strongest solution is direct agricultural management, wastewater treatment can be used as secondary mitigation. A current method concerns electrochemical recovery of phosphorus and nitrogen as solid struvite. However, optimal conditions in terms of recovery efficiency and energy consumption remain less explored. This project involves an electrochemical batch reactor with varying electrochemical conditions (temperature and voltage) and levels of phosphorus and nitrogen concentrations in synthetic wastewater to formulate an equation detailing optimum conditions for this reaction. The findings will be shared at RISE.
Farhad IbrahimzadeAlexander FeuerSmart and Self-Sustainable 3D Printing Farms
Awardee(s): Farhad Ibrahimzade, COE’26, Alexander Feuer COE’26
Mentor: Thomas Consi, COE, Electrical and Computer Engineering
We are developing a system to autonomously monitor and control 3D printers in a maker space. This will allow 3D printers to run continuously with maximum uptime and with minimal human intervention. The system will autonomously control the 3D printers and will be able to start print jobs and collect them upon completion by physically removing the magnetic printing surface and replacing it with a new one. It will also implement access control and print failure detection to further optimize the use of the equipment. Such a system will allow wider access to 3D printing in maker spaces.
Graham MacDonaldMaterials Characterization of Minerals Recovered from Electrochemical Treatment of Wastewater
Awardee: Graham MacDonald COE’26
Mentor: Damilola Daramola, COE, Chemical Engineering
Electrochemical processing of nutrient-rich wastewater to precipitate phosphorus and nitrogen containing minerals – in particular struvite – has been studied as a potential fertilizer source with reduced greenhouse gas emissions compared to typical sources. Previous work determined relationships between process efficiency and operating conditions by considering phosphorous removal from solution. This project will instead use materials characterization methods, SEM-EDX and XRD, to produce solid-state metrics which will be related back to operating conditions via statistical methods, with the hope of furthering the understanding of process chemistry. I plan to present these results at the RISE expo in April 2025.
Thomas NoochanVery Low Frequency Magnetoelectric Antenna Array Communication System
Awardee: Thomas Noochan COE’25
Mentor: Nian Sun, COE, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Very low frequency (VLF) radio waves are well suited for applications such as underwater wireless communication due to its low attenuation characteristics compared to high frequency waves. Current implementations of VLF underwater communication are large and consume large amounts of power. This project aims to reduce the size and power consumption by exploiting characteristics in magnetoelectric (ME) materials. These materials have intrinsic coupling properties which resonate with each other at certain frequencies, capable of producing strong signals. By combining ME antennas into an array, we aim to improve the distance between the transmitter and receiver while maintaining high signal strength
Maeve RyanInvestigating the Mechanism by Which Ionic Liquids Facilitate the Diffusion of Low Solubility Drugs
Awardee: Maeve Ryan COS’26
Mentor: Steve Lustig, COE, Chemical Engineering
The mucosal lining of the intestines is a major barrier to successful delivery of many drugs, and ionic liquids have emerged as a potential solution. While they have proven effective in increasing bioavailability of drugs and decreasing mucin viscosity, their mechanism is unknown. Maintaining the integrity of the protective mucosal layer is of high concern. In this experiment, we will use novel analysis of reaction kinetics between ionic liquids, drugs, and mucin, along with several other methods of analysis to make a conclusion about whether ionic liquids change the structure of mucin and therefore their viability for use in pharmaceuticals.
Rami TahaExploring the Relationship between Proteasome Inhibition and Photodynamic Therapy in Ovarian Cancer
Awardee: Rami Taha COE’27
Mentor: Bryan Spring, COS, Physics
Epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC)’s high fatality rate is largely attributed to the rapid development of resistance to conventional therapies. My project addresses this by merging targeted activatable photoimmunotherapy (taPIT), an advanced, selective variant of photodynamic therapy (PDT), with proteasome inhibition. This approach combines the precision of taPIT, using antibody-conjugated photosensitizers for targeted destruction, with the cellular stress induced by proteasome inhibitor MG132 to enhance treatment potency, specificity, and overcome drug resistance. Synergy will be measured by evaluating the combined effect’s efficacy beyond individual treatments. Findings aim for a presentation at the American Society for Photobiology conference and a publication.
Ann TitusModeling the Vapor-Liquid Equilibration Curve of Pentadecanoic Acid Using Gibbs Ensemble Monte Carlo
Awardee: Ann Titus COE’26
Mentor: Mona Minkara, COE, Bioengineering
This study utilizes a computational method called Monte Carlo simulations to analyze the vapor-liquid coexistence curve of Pentadecanoic Acid (PDA). PDA is a compound that structurally resembles lipid monolayers within the lungs. These monolayers are important during respiration as vapor-liquid coexistence occurs within the body. Monte Carlo simulations are set up as 2 boxes representing each phase, between which the PDA particles can swap. Data regarding density, temperature, etc. is collected over numerous time steps, constructing a coexistence curve. Modeling successful coexistence curves advances the understanding of lung monolayer behavior and is a large step in computational drug interaction research.
Lanny TsengComputational Model Development for Reflectarray Antennas
Awardee: Lanny Tseng COE’25
Mentor: Cristian Cassella, COE, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Reflectarray antennas have applications ranging from telecommunications to aerospace/defense. My proposed project aims to develop a working model of this device. The results will be presented in the form of a computational model and HFSS/ADS/CST simulation results. Most of the work done for this project will be done through the mentioned EM simulation software, however, physical device testing in anticipated for the future. My work will be presented at Northeastern’s RISE and a conference/journal paper will be written. The result of my project will allow for more accurate modeling of reflectarray antennas for members of the scientific community.
Neo IsakCasey GoyetteReinforcement Learning for Autonomous Control of Mobile Robots
Awardee(s): Neo Isak Khoury’25, Casey Goyette COE’26
Mentor: Rajagopal Venkatesaramani, Khoury, Computer Science
As robots are employed for increasingly complex and delicate tasks, a need has emerged for more accurate and efficient autonomous movement than existing algorithms provide. Roboticists have turned to AI as a solution due to its adaptability, but models are difficult to train properly under the limitations of simulations. We respond to this problem by training a model on a physical robot. We refine a methodology for training similar models in real-world environments that minimizes cost in hopes of making AI-powered control a more feasible option for high-budget projects. We intend to share our research in an academic journal.
Jonah JaffeElizabeth CollinsRemote Deployment of Underwater Robots Using a USV
Awardee(s): Jonah Jaffe Khoury’25, Elizabeth Collins COE’25
Mentor: Thomas Consi, COE, Electrical and Computer Engineering
This project aims to build an attachment for a marine unmanned surface vehicle (USV) that allows it to deploy other marine research robots including buoyancy controlled floats and underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). It will secure the robots using specialized swappable end effectors and lower them into the water for deployment using linear actuators. More specific to the ROV, we will create a specialized communication system and winding winch that allow it to be operated without a tethered connection to it. The aim is to create an all in one marine research system that increases accessibility to marine research.
Karina MillicanExamining the Effect of Knocking Down CD44 on Blood Brain Barrier Integrity
Awardee: Karina Millican COE’25
Mentor: Eno Ebong, COE, Chemical Engineering
In Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dysfunction is commonly overlooked as a contributing factor to the progression of this disease. This project investigates the role of CD44, a key core protein of the glycocalyx, and its involvement in blood-brain barrier (BBB) dysfunction. A relevant in vitro BBB model will be used to analyze the effects of CD44 knockdown on tight junction proteins and BBB permeability. It is hypothesized that the knockdown of CD44 will contribute to decreased barrier function, and an increase in permeability. These results could lead to identifying alternative therapeutic targets for Alzheimer’s residing outside of the brain parenchyma.
Zoia OkulovaMia WeismanKeerthi AtluriNuscent
Awardee(s): Zoia Okulova COE’25, Mia Weisman COE’25, Keerthi Atluri COE’26
Mentor: Benjamin Woolston, COE, Chemical Engineering
Northeastern’s iGEM team aims to make composting more accessible to urban communities through synthetic biology. Compost is known for its bad smell, deterring individuals from participating in sustainable waste disposal. To combat this problem, our team is engineering microbes to produce mint and lavender smelling compounds to counteract compost’s disagreeable odor. The team has identified molecules, linalool and menthol, that can be produced through biochemical pathways. The team hopes to genetically engineer identified microbes using protein-coding plasmids to express pathways of interest, turning a compost bin into a natural air freshener!
Jonah SachsMuscle-Incorporated Synthetic Pelves for Improved Biomechanical Testing of Osteosynthesis
Awardee: Jonah Sachs COE’25
Mentor: Marianne Hollensteiner, COS, Bioengineering
Pelvic ring fractures are very dangerous, due to their proximity to main blood vessels. Metal plate implants are used to fix fractures and accelerate healing and synthetic models assess the effectiveness of these implants. Current testing omits bone-muscle interactions, yielding ineffective representation. This project will assess the effectiveness of a variety of anchorage methods in attaching artificial muscle to polyurethane-derived bone. Tensile testing will compare quantitative deformation values to life-like computational models, where the proximity values correlates to model effectiveness. These results will be shared across the Institute of Biomechanics in Murnau, Germany, where this research is to be conducted.
Oliver TrejoDynamic Cytokine Immune Response to Acute Cigarette Exposure
Awardee: Oliver Trejo COE’25
Mentor: Chiara Bellini, COE, Bioengineering
Widespread cigarette use is a threat to global public health, as they are a major cause of mortality. Cigarettes have simultaneously immunosuppressive and proinflammatory effects in humans, potentially leading to severe illness or death. This project will quantify the time-based changes to innate immune cell activation and cytokine expression after acute cigarette exposure using flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry, and other cell-based assays. Lowered IL-17 expression in expected, in conjunction with over expression of IL6 and TNFa, followed by the impairment of natural killer cells, macrophages, and dendritic cells. All findings are to be shared externally as part of an encompassing publication.
Madeline SzooCharacterization of Extracellular Matrix (ECM) in Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG)
Awardee: Madeline Szoo COE’25
Mentor: Cynthia Hajal, COE, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering
This work will build on existing research to develop predictive vascularized tumor models for preclinical assays. Specifically, this project aims to characterize the mechanical properties (e.g., stiffness and porosity) of the ECM in DIPG both within the tumor and in the surrounding tissue. Ultimately, this work has far-reaching clinical implications and will elucidate the mechanical properties of pediatric brain tumor tissue that contribute to cancer progression and poor drug delivery. I will disseminate this work through presentations at the Sigma Xi IFoRE and the Northeastern University RISE Expo, as well as in peer-reviewed publications.

Related Faculty: Joshua Hertz, Francesco Restuccia, Ruobing Bai, Thomas Consi, Damilola Daramola, Nian X. Sun, Steve Lustig, Bryan Spring, Mona Minkara, Cristian Cassella, Eno E. Ebong, Benjamin Woolston, Chiara Bellini, Cynthia Hajal

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