Spring 2021 PEAK Experience Recipients

Congratulations to the COE student recipients of the Spring 2021 PEAK Experiences Awards. The PEAK Experiences Awards are a progressively structured sequence of opportunities designed to support learners as they continue climbing to new heights of achievement in undergraduate research and creative endeavor throughout their Northeastern journeys.

PEAK Experience Ascent Awardees

Ryan Brady, COE’22, Chemical Engineering/Biochemistry
“Coculturing of Intestinal Cells in an Organ-on-Chip Platform”

Mentor: Professor Ryan Koppes, Chemical Engineering
The goal of this project is to develop an improved Organ-on-Chip (OOC) model of the intestinal system. Animal models and static cell cultures currently used for intestinal modeling have shortcomings, most notably their differences from human functions. My project is to coculture four intestinal cell types on an OOC device to more accurately model intestinal function. This will involve the culturing of the cells on the OOC device as well as quantifying their growth with multiple staining methods. OOC models allow culturing of human cells in a more representative environment, potentially increasing modeling accuracy allowing more efficient drug development.
Anna LeClair, COE’23, Environmental Engineering
“Safely Reopening Buildings After the COVID-19 Shutdown: Investigating Lead Leaching and Corrosion Scales in Drinking Water”

Mentor: Professor Kelsey Pieper, Civil and Environmental Engineering
The COVID-19 pandemic forced commercial and academic buildings to abruptly close, causing drinking water systems to stagnate. Corrosion scales that form protective layers inside pipes become destabilized during stagnation, causing lead and other metal leaching and rendering drinking water unsafe. Our bench-scale experiment will investigate this poorly-understood phenomenon and determine safe reopening procedures after 1-4 weeks of stagnation to prevent harmful lead exposure. Results will be presented at RISE and other conferences and will be used to revise current EPA utility reopening guidelines.

PEAK Experience Summit Awardees

Rosemary Ajegwu, COE’21, Industrial Engineering
“when did our bodies stop belonging to us?”

Mentor: Professor Nicole Aljoe, African-American Studies and English
“when did our bodies stop belonging to us?” tethers the erasure of Uli drawing culture to colonialism, police brutality, and the policing of self-expression in Nigeria and within the Nigerian Diaspora. It exposes how colonization continues to govern our bodies, our personhoods, and our relationships to each other. Using archival research and documentation, “when did our bodies stop belonging to us?” invites Nigerians to preserve our Indigenous art forms, histories, and our right to self-expression.
Ralston Augspurg, COE’22, Bioengineering
“Altering Mechanotransduction Pathways Associated with Hypercontractility in Asthmatics”

Mentor: Professor Harikrishnan Parameswaran, Bioengineering
1 in 13 people are affected with asthma globally, yet the only treatments available for this chronic disease only manage the symptoms and reportedly progress the disease further over the course of someone’s life. We are investigating a way to provide long-term relief for asthmatics through targeting pathological mechanotransduction pathways in the airway by disabling integrins in smooth muscle cells using monoclonal antibodies. We hope to identify a possible strategy to better manage symptoms of this progressive disease.
Lauren Gerbereux, COE’21, Chemical Engineering
“Development of a Gene Therapy Platform for Treatment of Normocytic Normochromic Anemia”

Mentor: Professor Sidi Bencherif, Chemical Engineering
This project seeks to develop a novel gene therapy platform to treat normocytic normochromic anemia, a common complication of chronic kidney disease with limited treatment options that require frequent injections. Gene delivery vehicles will be loaded into a biomaterial to overcome limitations of current gene therapies and induce expression of erythropoietin to treat this disease. This technology will be developed and tested in-vivo on mice. It is expected that a new gene therapy platform for anemia will be invented that is minimally invasive and more convenient for the patient. The results will be presented and published in an academic journal.
Samantha Johnson, COE’21, Bioengineering
“Project TATUM (Tactile ASL Translational User Mechanism)”

Mentor: Professor Chiara Bellini, Bioengineering
For deaf blind individuals to efficiently communicate, they require the use of interpreting services. To increase the autonomy of the deaf blind community, I am developing a 3D printed, open-source, low-cost, anthropomorphic robotic arm capable of signing American Sign Language (ASL) from text input. Design validation will include motion capture analysis of the ASL alphabet, material property testing, and feedback trials with deaf blind participants to ensure a high incidence of sign recognition. The TATUM Arm will promote a sense of independence and community among deaf blind individuals, especially during COVID-19 when social distancing has limited the availability of interpreters.
Sydney Morris, COE’21, Chemical Engineering
“LFP and NMC for High-Rate Discharge, High Specific Energy Applications”

Mentor: Professor Joshua Gallaway, Chemical Engineering
I will research the combination of two battery materials, lithium iron phosphate (LFP) and lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC), into a single coin cell cathode to increase the safety and performance of lithium-ion batteries while reducing the cost. Prior research has demonstrated that combining these two materials has beneficial impacts on battery performance and results in high specific energy and high-rate discharge capabilities. However, further optimization of material ratios and processing techniques is needed. I seek to address this gap in knowledge throughout the semester and will present my findings at the AIChE conference next year.
Andrea Smith, COE’22, Bioengineering
“Impact of Cardiac Interoception Cues on Manual Interactions in Virtual Reality”

Mentor: Professor Eugene Tunik, Physical Therapy, Movement and Rehabilitation Sciences
This project seeks to understand the effects of augmented cardiac interoceptive feedback on reach-to-grasp task performance in virtual reality. Auditory and visual sensory substitution of heart rate (interoceptive feedback) will be used during a precision demanding reach-to-grasp task performed in virtual reality. The task will be performed before and after a brief bout of high intensity exercise; the bout of exercise is used to perturb the autonomic state in a controlled manner. We will be testing the relationship between cardiovascular state and motor performance, as influenced by task difficulty.

Related Faculty: Abigail N. Koppes, Kelsey Pieper, Harikrishnan Parameswaran, Chiara Bellini, Joshua Gallaway, Eugene Tunik

Related Departments:Bioengineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering