Ever since he stepped foot on campus, it seems Robert Elliott ’11 (Dighton, Mass.) has been destined for graduate school. He has been researching sustainable architecture since his first year and after earning his degree in civil engineering this spring, he’ll attend Columbia University to focus on converting unused flat roofs into comfortable roof gardens.
Elliott joins Melissa Gordon ’11 (Montvale, N.J.) and Lauren Huyett ’11 (Blandon, Pa.) in receiving National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships, which provide $30,000 annual stipends for a maximum of three years. Recipients are selected based on overall abilities and accomplishments, as well as potential to contribute to strengthening the vitality of the United States science and engineering industries.
“Civil engineering and architecture both focus on how the built environment can improve the quality of life, and I feel this is where I can do the greatest good for society,” says Elliott, who also is completing a minor in architecture. “Pursuing a graduate degree allows me to perform original research which will hopefully add to the knowledge base of humanity in a positive way. Green roofs provide reduced surface water runoff, improved thermal performance, sound insulation, urban heat island effect mitigation, and improved air quality. By making the green roofs inhabitable and architecturally strong, small private natural sanctuaries for humans are formed, leading to more livable cities.”
As a first-year student, Elliott joined a team of upperclassmen that designed a school site to meet LEED criteria and competed in the United States Green Building Council Natural Talent Design Competition. He studied sustainable architecture for a semester at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad in Copenhagen.
With the 2010 Jeffrey B. Havens ’78 Memorial Award, he traveled to Europe to study the infrastructure transformations of cities like Salzburg, Austria, and Rimini and Venice, Italy. That was where he first noticed how roof space can be used for architectural and social purposes. For his honors thesis, advised by David Veshosky, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, he is investigating the performance of unconventional vegetative roof models in lab conditions and assessing the feasibility of implementing green roofs on existing structures.
Gordon is thrilled to gain acceptance to her first-choice in chemical engineering doctoral programs at Princeton University. She fell in love with her major’s biological and medical applications through a First-Year Seminar on nanotechnology with James Ferri, associate professor and head of chemical and biomolecular engineering. Gordon worked with Ferri as an EXCEL Scholar the summer before her sophomore year on designing patterns for microfluidic devices.
The following summer she assisted Steven Mylon, assistant professor of chemistry, on research involving the bacteriophage MS2, a soft nanoparticle, first as an EXCEL Scholar and later through independent study. Last summer, she served an internship with Richard Brotzman ’75, principal nanotechnology development engineer, at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Ill., studying the synthesis of superparamagnetic nanoparticles for use in adhesives.
This year, Ferri is advising her honors thesis on the optimization of voxel resolution in materials additive manufacturing. A voxel is the three-dimensional equivalent of a pixel. She presented her work at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) 2010 annual meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the American Chemical Society’s national meeting and exposition in Anaheim, Calif., last month. She also studied engineering, art, and architecture through an interim-abroad interdisciplinary course in Egypt.
“Lafayette gave me the opportunity to develop close relationships with faculty that helped me plan my future,” says Gordon, who is co-president of the College’s AIChE student chapter. “I learned a great deal in my courses and appreciate all the advice I got about applying to graduate school and the NSF from Professors Ferri and Mylon. Their guidance was invaluable in preparing me for my future.”
Huyett will pursue a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at University of California, Santa Barbara, where she plans to work on developing better medical diagnostic techniques. In 2009, she participated in the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she was part of a team that investigated cranberry juice as a preventative measure against urinary tract infections. Her role was to determine whether bacteria could form a biofilm in the urine of people who drink cranberry juice, and she presented her results at that year’s Biomedical Engineering Society national conference.
The following summer, she worked as an EXCEL Scholar with Patricia Darcy, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, on characterizing nanoparticles for use in drug delivery systems. For her work she received a Goldwater Scholarship last year. Awarded for academic merit, the Goldwater is the premier undergraduate award of its type in the fields of mathematics, science, and engineering.
This year, she is focusing her honors thesis research on the adsorption kinetics of the bacteriophage MS2; understanding soft nanoparticles like this one is important in a variety of fields including water treatment and drug delivery. In addition to her research, she is a mentor in the YWCA of Bethlehem’s TechGYRLS program, an afterschool program for middle school girls interested in science and technology.
“What I like about chemical engineering is that it takes the fields of chemistry, mathematics, and physics, and combines them to address real-world problems in healthcare, energy, and other crucial areas,” explains Huyett, a member of the Arts Society’s steering committee and flutist who has performed with the Concert Band, Pep Band, Contemporary Music Ensemble, and Chamber Music Ensemble. “My professors really encouraged me to go after opportunities like the NSF fellowship. The undergraduate research I’ve done at Lafayette has prepared me to start doing research at the graduate level.”
See a list of recent Lafayette recipients of national and international scholarships and fellowships for undergraduate and post-graduate study. For information on applying for scholarships and fellowships, contact Julia A. Goldberg, associate dean of the College, (610) 330-5521.