As a freshman looking for undergraduate research, I was hoping to find an experience that I could learn from while at the same time give something back to the professor I was assisting. I had stumbled upon a project led by Professor Sandra Shefelbine that seemed like it would strengthen the skills and knowledge that I would need for my mechanical engineering major, and so I asked to meet with her to discuss the details. She explained to me that she was developing an experiment that would be carried out in the upcoming summer by accelerated high school students, and as it turns out I had gone through a similar program myself in the past. Immediately, we both realized the benefits we could offer to one another. So, before even starting to the contribute, I was already able to see what her current students had done so far and I felt comfortable jumping right in the following spring.
The experiment I joined involved using chicken femurs to model the process of creating a hip prosthetic in a way that would challenge and engage students at the high school level. By the time I started working on this project most of the logistics for getting this experiment running were already figured out, but a lot of trials still had to be carried out in order to really refine what would be delivered over the summer. Many trips were made to the grocery store to replace all the chicken bones that were crushed in Professor Shefelbine’s Intron machine over the course of several months, but with each round of bones both myself and those who I was working with gained valuable knowledge. We would meet weekly to discuss the data we would gather and decide how to change the process in a way that would make it more efficient and repeatable. As the weeks carried on, my peers and I were running through trials of the experiment faster and faster until we truly ended up with polished product that was well documented.
This research experience was a unique way for me to actually get a taste of my major early on. I was fortunate enough to work under Professor Shefelbine who offered tons of great assistance and advice throughout the whole process. She gave me a lot of responsibilities, but also plenty of resources, so she made it easy for me to succeed. I truly enjoyed my time in her lab throughout the spring, and was thrilled to be asked to guide the lab with one of my peers over the summer. Teaching the lab to potential Northeastern students was another amazing experience to have going into my sophomore year, and I can’t thank Professor Shefelbine enough for putting as much effort into ensuring my success as her own. In addition, the high school students also got a special chance to experience what engineering is like with a lab that encompassed mechanical testing, designing a prosthetic in SolidWorks that they could 3D print, testing their custom designs, and analyzing the data they produced. I hope some of those students come to Northeastern to pursue engineering because I’m excited to see out the rest of my degree, especially after participating in a research experience like this one.
Jordan Asseo, Mechanical Engineering