Announcing Spring 2023 PEAK Experiences Awardees

Several engineering students and science students mentored by COE faculty are recipients of Northeastern’s Spring 2023 PEAK Experiences Awards.

Base Camp Awardees
Sophia NguyenSophia Nguyen COE’26, “Neuromodulation of Motor Cortex’s Response to Different Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Pulse Waveforms”
Mentor: Mathew Yarossi, Bouvé, Physical Therapy/Movement/Rehab Science
This project seeks to use transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a noninvasive brain stimulation technique where a localized magnetic pulse is generated to excite neurons in the motor cortex, which produces a motor evoked potential (MEP), a focal muscle twitch identified by a spike in voltage. However, even when stimulating the same location with constant stimulus intensity, some variability in MEP size exists. We will be testing this relationship through an input-output curve, and investigating the dependence of MEP size variability on stimulus intensity, which may aid in assessing diseases such as corticospinal dysfunction in individuals with stroke, ALS, and osteoarthritis.
Victoria RiveraVictoria Rivera COE’24, “Development of an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Device with Eye-Tracking Technology to Aid in Social Communication for Minimally Verbal Autistic Children”
Mentor: Leanne Chukoskie, Bouvé, Physical Therapy/Movement/Rehab Science
The goal of this project is to develop an improved augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device prototype, to assist communication in minimally verbal autistic children, that targets some current limitations of current AAC devices. It will be designed according to perspectives gathered from surveying parents of autistic children regarding their ideas around AAC devices and their preferences in communication methods with their children. A co-design process will be conducted alongside surveying families to start evaluating what design requirements to incorporate and adjust accordingly to suit children’s preferences. Outcomes will be shared in a peer-reviewed publication for submission to a journal.
Ascent Awardees
Hannah CarterHannah Carter COE’25, “Using Calcium Imaging to Determine Shear and Temperature Sensitivities of the Enteroendocrine cell line”
Mentor: Abigail Koppes, COE, Chemical Engineering
The purpose of this experiment is to dive deeper into research about the connection between gut health and mental health. By understanding the sensitivities of the enteroendocrine cell line, the gut-brain axis will be better understood and modeled. In order to determine these sensitivities, the cells will be dosed with stimuli and recorded using calcium imaging to determine the percent area of cells that fired. It is expected that the GSMTx4 blocker will minimize the shear sensitivity and the capsazepine will inhibit the temperature sensitivity. I will share these results through a lab presentation as well as the PEAK conference.
Andrew GoeringAneel KahlonAndrew Goering COE’24, Aneel Kahlon COE’25, “Fingering Instability with Interfacial Gel Formation in a Radial Hele-Shaw Cell”
Mentor: Xiaoyu Tang, COE, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering
Whenever a less viscous fluid is driven into a more viscous fluid in a porous medium, the less viscous fluid will extend long, branching fingers into the more viscous fluid. Understanding this phenomenon, known as fingering instability, is important for industrial and environmental applications including oil extraction and carbon sequestration. We will perform experiments where a gel forms at the interface between the fluids, because a gel barrier could be useful for trapping or restricting the spread of unwanted or dangerous substances in a porous material (like soil or sand).
Nethra IyerNethra Iyer COE’24, “Compilation and Analysis of Chemical Engineering Comics”
Mentor: Lucas Landherr, COE, Chemical Engineering
The purpose of this project is to understand and analyze the trends that arise between previously created chemical engineering comics and first-year engineering students’ understanding, confidence, and interest. These qualitative factors will be measured quantitatively via numerical questions sent out in a survey. The results will also be used to refine some of the comics in order to help their full potential and help aid in chemical engineering education. These results will be graphed and then shared in a poster presentation as well as a potential paper.
Jonah JaffeJonah Jaffe Khoury’25, “Building a Buoyancy-Controlled Float to Increase Accessibility to Marine Research”
Mentor: Tom Consi, COE, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Buoyancy-controlled floats are a type of unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), that have been crucial in gathering data from our oceans. They function by changing their density by inflating and deflating a bladder. In doing so, they make themselves positively or negatively buoyant, thus allowing them to float up or sink down using minimal energy. The goal of this specific research project is to create a design for a buoyancy-controlled float that is cheaper, lighter and more easily extensible than other designs out there to serve as an entry point for researchers in the field looking to gather long-term underwater data.
Summit Awardees
Lina Abu-AbsiLina Abu-Absi COE’24, “Differentiation of Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Neurons for Investigation of Vascular Graft Integration”
Mentor: Ryan Koppes, COE, Chemical Engineering
Vein grafts are often used in bypass surgeries to treat blocked portions of arteries with atherosclerosis, in which arteries narrow due to plaque build-up. However, most grafts fail within 10 years. This project strives to differentiate human induced pluripotent stem cells into sympathetic and parasympathetic neurons, which compose arterial nerves, by optimizing relevant differentiation protocols. This work will support organ-on-a-chip development to further study the interaction between nerves and blood vessels, and thus increase the efficacy of vascular grafts. This work will be presented at the RISE Expo in Spring 2023 and the AIChE and BMES conferences in Fall 2023.
Carolina Aguilera BarrazaCarolina Aguilera Barraza COE’24, “Anthocyanins as Broad-Spectrum Light Filters and as a High-performing Cosmetic Ingredient”
Mentor: Leila Deravi, COS, Chemistry & Chemical Biology
This project consists of the in-depth study of anthocyanins, and their performance as broad-spectrum light filters, as a natural and non-toxic cosmetic ingredient. Now more than ever, the personal care industry is looking for sustainable and high-performance ingredients that will enhance any beauty product while taking care of its consumers. I will be conducting research to perfect the pigments’ extraction, purification, and stability protocols so that we can begin performance testing to ensure the quality of the ingredient. The expected outcomes are a better understanding of anthocyanins, their performance in a cosmetic formula, and a published paper.
Sidharth AnnapragadaSidharth Annapragada COE’24, “Low-cost Sonar-Based Communications System for Underwater Biomimetic Robots”
Mentor: Joseph Ayers, COS, Marine & Environment Sciences
Unmanned underwater robots are becoming an increasingly useful tool for monitoring and managing aquatic environments, especially as man-made and natural environmental disasters become more prevalent. Sending and receiving data from the robots is crucial for their smooth operation. This project revolves around developing a low-cost, customizable sound-based transmitter-receiver (“sonar transceiver”) for use as a communication and localization system in existing underwater robots. This work will produce a working low-cost sonar transceiver that can be used in the open water for various robotic systems and will be presented at RISE and externally.
Barkha BhavsarBarkha Bhavsar COE’23, “Investigating Cathode Performance with Composite Solid Electrolyte Li-Ion Batteries”
Mentor: Joshua Gallaway, COE, Chemical Engineering
This work will further study the techniques used to characterize composite solid electrolytes, an alternative to liquid electrolytes used in lithium-ion batteries. Current liquid electrolytes have reached energy-density limits and are flammable, so CSEs are a promising solution. Cathodes utilized with CSEs will be studied by integrating PEO into them to create a more uniform Li+ transport pathway and improve ionic conductivity of the system. Thicker cathodes will also be made in the CSE format to match liquid electrolyte cathode porosity. This work will be shared at RISE and Dr. Gallaway’s lab meetings.
Stephanie ChunBrian ChoStephanie Chun COE’24, Brian Cho COE’23, “Bio-based Cementitious Material from Engineered Microbes”
Mentor: Neel Joshi, COS, Chemistry & Chemical Biology
Cement production is the second leading cause of CO2 emissions. To become more carbon-neutral, we must explore alternative methods of producing cement. Our project aims to build bio-based cementitious material from engineered microbes by taking advantage of Curli fibers, self-assembling amyloid proteins produced by E. coli . We aim to engineer material binding proteins onto the curli subunit, CsgA, to build novel proteinaceous materials using sand, chitin, and cellulose. We will examine these constructs by testing their affinity to existing cementitious composites and investigating the mechanical properties of the resulting bio-bricks.
Amanda DeeAmanda Dee COE’23, “Developing Catharanthus roseus root cultures encoding a dual inducible system”
Mentor: Carolyn Lee-Parsons, COE, Chemical Engineering
Catharanthus roseus is a medicinal plant that produces two anti-cancer compounds in low quantities. Therefore, the Lee-Parsons lab focuses on engineering enhanced production. The biosynthetic pathway is controlled by multiple transcription factors (TFs), so the lab is aiming to develop a single synthetic biology tool that can regulate multiple TFs simultaneously. In this work, the tool contains fluorescent reporters instead, using fluorescence as a proxy for gene expression. After confirming successful function, the reporters will be replaced with regulators of interest. This work will hopefully be presented at ASPB2023 and the student is in the process of co-authoring a paper.
Jason DenoncourtJason Denoncourt COE’23, “Enhancing Phage Attack Against Multidrug-Resistant Acinetobacter baumannii”
Mentor: Edward Geisinger, COS, Biology
The emergence of multidrug-resistant bacterial pathogens in the clinic threatens public health. The use of lytic bacteriophages, viruses that selectively attack and kill bacteria, has gained renewed interest as an alternative therapeutic approach for antibiotic-resistant infections. My project will investigate a mechanism to increase phage susceptibility in a major multidrug-resistant pathogen, Acinetobacter baumannii , which causes hospital-acquired diseases including sepsis. Activating a stress response that raises the amount of capsule on the surface of the bacteria increases binding and killing by phages. I will determine the applicability of this mechanism to diverse strains of A. baumannii possessing different types of capsule.
Jarrod HomerJarrod Homer COE’23, “Bio-Inspired Robot Armadillo”
Mentor: Rifat Sipahi, COE, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering
This project aims to create a robot that mimics the unique biomechanics of three-banded armadillos that allow them to curl into a ball. Such a mechanism could enable the robot to safely tumble down steep inclines that are normally inaccessible to traditional ground-based robots. The project will focus on designing a resilient shell mechanism and basic walking functionality, culminating in testing on short staircases or hills. Results will be presented at Northeastern’s RISE Expo.
Dhruv JatkarDhruv Jatkar Khoury’25, “Validating Novel Cross-Feeding Pathways in a Syntrophic Co-Culture”
Mentor: Benjamin Woolston, COE, Chemical Engineering
The purpose of this project is to validate computational predictions for the optimal interactions between two microbes in a syntrophic co-culture system. Acetogens are a group of microbes that can convert greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into high-value biochemicals. When paired with an aerobe partner, they can divide up the labor of this task more efficiently. I propose to take simulation data for novel metabolic pathways and perform isotopic labeling experiments to validate the interactions experimentally. The results from this project will be published and will be presented at the RISE conference.
Chase LeffersChase Leffers COE’23, “Mitosis PCB with Adaptive Voltage and Current Control”
Mentor: Tom Consi, COE, Electrical and Computer Engineering
This is a continuation and expansion in scope of the original Mitosis 3D printer. The goal of this project is to develop a low-cost, highly capable, and fault-tolerant PCB that can operate all of the components in the burgeoning Mitosis ecosystem. To date, Mitosis has built a working 3D printer, an adjustable angle nozzle with 2 degrees of freedom, a filament-creation device that can mix up to 6 ingredients to create highly custom filament with unique properties, and a prototype of an adjustable angle nozzle. This project aims to create a PCB to integrate the ecosystem and improve prototyping speed.
Faith LukangBenjamin LevinFaith Lukang COE’25, Benjamin Levin COE’24  “In-Situ Life Detection System”
Mentor: Taskin Padir, COE, Electrical and Computer Engineering
An in-situ life detection system is a requirement of the University Rover Challenge. This year, there are 2 separate tests that need to be done on the soil samples: several organic molecule detection tests using paper test strips and an ATP detection test using a Luciferase solution. In order to maximize the efficiency of the automated test procedure, the rover would ideally be able to split a single sample. The system must be optimized to minimize the complexity of obtaining samples, dividing them amongst the two tests, and the actual testing for evidence of life.
Naa Momoh OdarteifioNaa Momoh Odarteifio COE’23, “Exploring the Effect of Structural Differences in EMD Cathodes and a-MnO2 Cathodes on Zinc-MnO2 Battery Cycling Stability”
Mentor: Joshua Gallaway, COE, Chemical Engineering
There is a need for an alternative battery technology to lithium-ion batteries due to their flammability, expensiveness, and the unsustainability of the raw material supply. Zinc-MnO 2 batteries are a possible replacement as they have comparative theoretical electrochemical performance, are cheaper, safer, and use environmentally benign materials. The issue with zinc-ion batteries is their rapid capacity fade and cycling instability due to poor zinc intercalation in the cathode. This project intends to improve the zinc-ion cell performance by exploring how structural differences in EMD cathodes and α-MnO 2 cathodes can influence zinc intercalation and in effect, the cell cycling stability.
Ashka PatelAshka Patel COE’24, “Tying Mechanosensitive Vesicles with Molecular Knots”
Mentor: Jessica Oakes, COE, Bioengineering
Mechanosensitive channels (MSCs) are ubiquitous in biology and present significant potential for application in drug delivery systems. MSCs allow molecules to be transported across a membrane when membrane tension increases, which can be achieved by inserting molecules into the bilayer. This project aims to examine the effect of inserting a molecular trefoil knot into the membrane of an artificial vesicle to study the activation of the associated MSCs by visualizing and quantifying the transport of a fluorescent dye out of the vesicle. The results of this project will be presented at CÚRAM Annual Summit and published in an academic journal.
Sharwin PatilEthan MuhlonSharwin Patil COE’24, Ethan Muhlon COE’23“Robotic-Arm Educational Kit”
Mentor: Rifat Sipahi, COE, Mech & Industrial Engineering
We plan to build an educational kit for a mechanical engineering class that teaches the fundamentals of robotic manipulators. Currently, existing robotic manipulator kits can be very costly and our goal is to design and build a cheap kit for students to utilize for hands-on learning in the classroom along with the course material. The kit will be cheap enough for several to be funded with the PEAK Summit Award to support up to 20-30 students enrolled in the course.
Dominic PizzarellaDominic Pizzarella COE’26, “Evaluation of ionically conductive hydrogels ability to amplify cell signaling for organ-on-chip applications”
Mentor: Ryan Koppes, COE, Chemical Engineering
Organ-on-chip technology has shown increasing promise in the drug development industry. This platform incorporates hydrogels (3D crosslinked network of insoluble, hydrophilic polymers) which allow for accurate emulation of the in-vivo environment. However, 3D cultures are limited in their ability to be thoroughly tested since most tissue engineering experiments have been optimized for 2D as it is cheaper and less time consuming. It is hypothesized that an ionically conductive hydrogel has the ability to amplify cell signaling which would allow for 2D experimentation methods to be applied to 3D. I hope to share my findings at the BMES national conference.
Jonah SaundersAndrew PrestiScott LogcherJonah Saunders COE’24, Andrew Presti COE’24, Scott Logcher COE’25, “Space Building Drone”
Mentor: Rifat Sipahi, COE, Mech & Industrial Engineering
Colonization of Mars has been a goal of many people, but in order to achieve this, safe structures have to be created. We are designing an aerial drone that will be able to construct bricks from the existing Martian soil, and then transport them through the Martian atmosphere in order to construct a structurally sound building. The drone itself will consist of four propellers for lift and one grabbing arm to lift the brick. We are planning on displaying our final designs and results at the SEDS/NURobotics showcase night and hopefully this will generate further interest in the project.
Joyce ShenJoyce Shen COS’23, “Reversing Hypoxia-Induced Immunosuppression Using Oxygen-Generating Cryogels”
Mentor: Sidi Bencherif, COE, Chemical Engineering
Hypoxia, or lack of oxygen, is a common characteristic of injury and disease that impedes natural healing and immune responses. Oxygen-generating biomaterials may provide a novel solution by supplementing oxygen to hypoxic tissues. My project will investigate the use of oxygen-generating biomaterials to locally reverse hypoxia and reinforce the anti-tumor activity of immune cells. Dendritic cells will be treated with a cryogel biomaterial designed to release oxygen over time, then cell function and activation will be tested under hypoxic conditions. The findings will be disseminated through conference presentations and potential journal publications.
Garrit StrengeGarrit Strenge COE’24, “Demystifying State-of-the-Art Robotic Manipulator Control Systems”
Mentor: Taskin Padir, COE, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Most industry robotic manipulators are controlled through application specific closed-source software – making it difficult to get access to and learn from at the undergraduate level. Furthermore, open-source solutions lack introductory-level documentation – further raising the barrier to entry. This project aims to demystify the implementation of inverse kinematic and inverse dynamic solvers by implementing various state-of-the-art solutions in a lightweight software stack controlling a custom 6 Degree-of-Freedom (DoF) manipulator – which will be used as a teaching surface for students on the Northeastern University Mars Rover Team, and for a competitive edge in the 2023 University Rover Challenge.
Alex ZengShannon McInnisAlex Zeng COE’23, “Imitative Haptic Controller for Robotic Arm Onboard Mars Rover”
Mentor: Taskin Padir, COE, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Many robotic manipulators are controlled with devices like joysticks and game controllers. However, these methods lack haptic feedback and do not provide an intuitive understanding of the robot’s position, both of which are helpful for teleoperation without line-of-sight (required for Northeastern’s Mars Rover). The researchers will instead investigate a small replica of the rover’s arm that acts as a haptic controller and “puppets” the rover’s manipulator, providing an intuitive method of object manipulation by relaying the forces acting on the primary arm. This project will be showcased in the University Rover Challenge and tested at NASA’s Mars Desert Research Station.

Related Faculty: Jessica Oakes

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