The first movie Sixth Former Emma Born can remember is Star Wars. Though the galactic epic is a work of fiction, as a young child she was fascinated by the idea of machines that could shuttle humans to a place other than Earth. From that moment, Born knew she wanted to be an engineer, but her recent internship studying aircraft noise abatement at MIT’s International Center for Air Transportation (ICAT) brought a new dimension to her goals.
This past summer, Born spent 40 hours a week working alongside Ph.D. candidates at MIT as part of the Engineering Honors Program. The course originated four years ago as an avenue for computer science and engineering-focused students to grow through project-based learning.
“My experience at MIT has taught me so much more than how to calculate a battery density or the lift to drag ratio of a powered lift aircraft; it has taught me how to live the life that I want to live,” shared Born. “Every single person in ICAT walks into work each morning and wants to be there. Never have I seen people more enthusiastic about what they do. The field of engineering is so much more complex than anything I have ever seen before, and I am more sure than ever that I want to be part of it.”
The success of students like Born has drawn the interest of her peers from biological science backgrounds who are also eager for a similar experience. To meet the growing demand, Molecular Biology and Honors Chemistry teacher Sarah Boylan has joined course instructors Terry Wardrop ’73 and Will Renauld to help mentor and guide these students through self-learning processes to acquire the skills needed for their summer work. "Like any engineering design project, we are self-critical," said Wardrop. "We are always looking at how we can make this better. Clearly, the name is no longer sufficient. We are going through a process of analysis to find better terms to describe our program."
Sixth Former Elena Guild worked closely with Boylan to practice cell cultures in preparation for her placement with the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. By the second week of her internship, Guild was actively assisting the lab team in their work to identify apoptotic pathways in cancer cell lines.
“‘Elena, you can start running your own experiments if you want,’” Guild recalls a team member saying. “‘You don’t have to wait for me.”
“I was shocked,” said Guild. “They were letting me do experiments on my own, independently. After a moment of self-panic I realized, I do know how to do this."
This year, students interned at several institutions such as MIT Media Lab’s Open Agriculture Initiative (OpenAg) Group, the University of New Hampshire Jere A. Chase Ocean Engineering Laboratory, the University of Texas at Austin Astronomy Lab, and Shattuck Labs, Inc., a biotech lab founded by Josiah Hornblower ’94 and Dr. Taylor Schreiber ’98.
For these students, working through the summer was a highlight. “My internship reminded me of the joy that I had in learning and not just getting good grades,” says Born. “Once again, I have the desire to change the world, and I can't imagine myself in a more perfect position to do so."
Born and Guild will be joined by fellow Sixth Formers on Friday, September 28, to give presentations on their summer internships as part of the School's Lovejoy Science Lecture Series. Find a complete listing of the 2018 summer placements below:
Emma Born studied aircraft noise abatement through changing air traffic patterns at the International Center for Air Transportation (ICAT) at MIT in Cambridge, Mass.
Jason Chen developed deep learning algorithms to analyze plant growth at the MIT Media Lab’s Open Agriculture Initiative (OpenAg) in Cambridge, Mass.
Delaney Eichorn analyzed data on pulsating white dwarf stars at the University of Texas at Austin Astronomy Lab in Austin, Texas.
Elena Guild helped elucidate apoptotic pathways in cancer cell lines at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in Atlanta, Ga.
Samuel Henderson worked on EEG controlled exoskeleton systems at the University of Houston Non-Invasive Brain Machine Interface System Laboratory in Houston, Texas.
Katherine Hughes worked on developing autonomous swarming aquatic underwater and surface vehicles at the University of New Hampshire Jere A. Chase Ocean Engineering Laboratory in Durham, N.H.
Livia Hughes worked on creating CAD and actual airflight instrument designs at the Safe Flight Instrument Corporation in White Plains, N.Y.
Eren Keles analyzed mouse expression of BMP proteins, a family of signaling molecules which play an important role in musculoskeletal tissues, at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine in Boston, Mass.
Alex Lee worked in a variety of engineering and programming areas as an intern for a small start-up company, Awair, in San Francisco, Calif.
Tsolaye Ogbemi worked in a variety of engineering departments as an intern for a large telecommunications company at MTN Group Limited in Lagos, Nigeria.
Scott Spurzem helped to test the efficacy of various immunotherapy drugs in various cancer cell lines at Shattuck Labs, Inc., in Raleigh, N.C.
Steven Wang worked on 3D/CAD fitting software for clothing design and manufacture at the FKgroup in Bergamo, Italy.