Announcing Summer 2023 PEAK Experiences Awardees

Several engineering students and science students mentored by COE faculty are recipients of Northeastern’s Summer 2023 PEAK Experiences Awards. They will be pursuing a diverse set of projects, including a study of a pathogen that haunts hospitals, an examination of segregationist rhetoric in Boston newspapers, and an analysis of creativity in music.

Base Camp Awardees
Christina AniolekChristina Aniolek COE’25, “Optimizing Organ-On-A-Chip Culture of HUVEC Cells for Dynamic Monitoring of Barrier Integrity”
Mentor: Abigail Koppes, COS, Chemical Engineering
I will be studying organ-on-a-chip technology, specifically how a cellular layer on the chip is impacted when a detergent is washed over the cells. This includes studying the effects of detergent concentration on the health of the cellular layer and learning about cell culture, aseptic technique, and laser cutting.
Marc D'AlmeidaMarc D’Almeida COE’24, “Exploring the Gestural Mapping of Contemporary Electronic Music”
Mentor: Hubert Ho, CAMD, Music
This research project aims to investigate the extent to which people connect to contemporary electronic music on the level of traditional music, evaluating the characteristics of traditional music that create a response in the listener and evaluating the extent to which electronic music matches these characteristics.
Maya EinhornMaya Einhorn COE’26, “Sun-Tag Project”
Mentor: Tova Day, COS, Biology
G-quadruplexes are DNA structures that form in DNA sequences with a lot of guanines and can be associated with different diseases. Our goal is to combine a protein developed to bind to G4s with the Sun-Tag tagging system to create an alternative imaging and flow cytometry probe for G4s.
Whitney HansberryWhitney Hansberry COE’25, “Effects of Hydrogen Sulfide Concentrations in the Mucosal Layer of the Microbiome”
Mentor: Rebecca Carrier, COE, Chemical Engineering
I will be working in Professor Carrier’s Advanced Drug Delivery Lab on research regarding the mucus layer of the microbiome. Experiments that I will be leading include testing the effects of different concentrations of hydrogen sulfide with the use of nanoparticles.
Stephen LandryStephen Landry COE’25, “Effect of Enteric Neuron Activity on Mucus Secretion in the Intestines”
Mentor: Abigail Koppes, COE, Chemical Engineering
It is well-documented that neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease can negatively impact gut health, which is largely influenced by microbiota that rely on intestinal mucus to thrive. This project seeks to understand the importance of enteric neurons in the production of the mucus that lines intestinal epithelial cells.
Sofia OdehSofia Odeh COE’26, ” Stereo Camera Sensor Interfacing on COBRA Rover: Enhancing Autonomy for Lunar Exploration”
Mentor: Alireza Ramezani, COE, Electrical and Computer Engineering
COBRA (Crater Observing Bio-inspired Rolling Articulator) is a snake-like robot designed for the exploration of the lunar surface. By integrating two camera sensors into the robot’s software pipeline, real-time images of its motion will be received resulting in enhanced spacial awareness and independence.
Nikolas SandersonNikolas Sanderson COE’26, “Extra Cavity Pulse Splitter”
Mentor: Bryan Spring, COS, Physics
I am applying laser physics to achieve better results for cancer imaging and microsurgery. Lasers have enormous amounts of power; we only use a fraction of it because of tissue damage and poor image quality. I am developing a way that allows us to use these higher amounts of power.
Ascent Awardees
Jiajia FuDawning Fu COE’26, “High Throughput Glycan-Proximal Sensitivity Signature Prediction Computational Pipeline for HIV-1 Immunogen Design”
Mentor: Srirupa Chakraborty, COE, Chemical Engineering
Glycans are polymerized carbohydrates that coat most human cellular proteins and protein envelopes, the only surface vaccine targets of pathogenic viruses like coronavirus and influenza. The HIV-1 virus is a notoriously challenging vaccine target due to its highly mutagenic, dense and heterogenous glycan coating. The extremely dynamic 3D glycan shield around the protein spike envelope makes experimental imaging extremely difficult. Computational tools are well suited to overcoming these experimental barriers. This project will apply our existing computational pipeline to model 4 high-frequency mutations HIV envelope with atomistic-resolution glycan shields and identify glycan conformation changes compared to the wild-type.
Sophia NguyenSophia Nguyen COE’26, “Post-Acute Care Discharge Pattern of Stroke Patients: Before and During the Covid-19 Pandemic”
Mentor: Nasim Ferdows, CSSH, Public Policy and Urban Affairs
Every year, more than 795,000 people in the US have a stroke. Early onset rehabilitative care, such as Post-Acute Care (PAC), during acute hospitalization after a stroke is critical to improving recovery. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has likely disrupted access to PAC services. This project aims to compare the length of stay for hospitalized stroke patients, as well as their discharge destinations, before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using data from the CDC, we hope to analyze and quantify the relationship between discharge to in-patient rehab facilities and skilled nursing facilities for stroke patients in the post-pandemic and pre-pandemic periods.
Sanjana ShastriSanjana Shastri COS’24, “Characterization of the Glycocalyx of Microvascular Endothelial Cells that Recruit Cancer Cells”
Mentor: Eno Ebong, COE, Chemical Engineering
The endothelial cell (EC) glycocalyx (GCX) coat acts as the first vascular barrier against metastasizing cancer cells. GCX function is influenced by its composition, which has been understudied for microvascular ECs. Our objective was to examine GCX composition in a cell culture model matching native conditions. We assessed GCX composition on lung and brain microvascular ECs through immunostaining, fluorescence microscopy, and computational image analysis. α2,6-linked Sialic Acid was the most abundant GCX component for both microvascular ECs. The compilation of this work will be disseminated as a review. Future work will examine sialic acid’s role in cancer cell recruitment.
Ananya TadigadapaAnanya Tadigadapa COE’24, “Dense Visual Mapping for High-Speed Autonomous Ground Vehicle Navigation”
Mentor: David Rosen, COE, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Executed in Prof. David Rosen’s lab and in collaboration with Toyota Research Institute, this project will explore a new solution to the problem of self-driving cars failing to localize at high speeds and in empty terrains. Rather than individual landmarks, larger areas of similar texture will be tracked across images to more successfully locate within a given map, through a process called dense visual reconstruction. The significance of this research project is to make self-driving cars practical and safe to integrate into society.
Summit Awardees
Sid AnnapragadaSidharth Annapragada COE’24, “Ringing a Bell: Human Control of Complex Objects With Internal Collisions”
Mentor: Dagmar Sternad, COE, Electrical and Computer Engineering
In everyday activities, humans constantly manipulate complex objects with internal dynamics, like a cup of coffee. A little-explored area is how we control entities that involve internal collisions, for example, a bag with groceries or an old-fashioned bell and clapper. We examined kinematic and kinetic data from subjects ringing a bell-and-clapper in a virtual environment with a haptic interface. Based on our recent work, we hypothesized that humans seek to minimize their force inputs to the bell while still maintaining stability. This experiment shed light on how humans solve such control problems, which can help roboticists create more dexterous robots.
Maram BakrMaram Bakr COE’24, “Soft Particle Characterization within Tapered Channel Systems
Mentor: Sara Hashmi, COE, Chemical Engineering
The tracking of particle clogging under different conditions allows for the understanding and observation of the effects of different variables on clogging behavior. I intend to observe tapered channel systems and the behavior of soft particles to understand better natural systems to which such clogging patterns are applicable and beneficial for future understanding.
Luke DeMarcoLuke DeMarco COE’24, “Investigations of the Susceptibility of Human and Murine NK Cells to Hypoxia-Adenosinergic Immunosuppression”
Mentor: Stephen Hatfield, Bouvé, Pharmaceutical Science
Extracellular adenosine, which is present in high concentrations in the low-oxygen environment of tumors, suppresses anti-tumor immune cells by engaging their A2A adenosine receptors (A2AR). This project investigates the role of this physiological immunosuppressive pathway on the function of natural killer (NK) cells. There is an acute medical need to improve immunotherapies of cancer by preventing the inhibition of anti-tumor NK cells in the tumor microenvironment (TME). This work aims to determine the mechanisms by which NK cells are inhibited by hypoxia and adenosine-mediated suppression, with a further goal of comparing these mechanisms in mouse cells versus human cells.
Kaitlyn RameshKaitlyn Ramesh COE’25, “Leveraging Spatial Transcriptomics to Understand the Effects of the Tumor Microenvironment on Gene Expression
Mentor: Mingyang Lu, COE, Bioengineering
Cellular heterogeneity in the tumor microenvironment helps cancer cells proliferate, evade immune checkpoints, and resist most treatments. Analyzing newly developed spatial transcriptomics data enables us to study cells with knowledge of their location in the tissue. However, existing research on spatial transcriptomics is limited to locating present cell types. Hence, I will build a machine-learning model that infers cell type based on location in the tumor microenvironment, by using spatial transcriptomics data from patient tumor samples. This model will contribute to a mechanistic understanding of how cell-cell signaling supports cancer cells, and results will be shared in a publication.
Divya RavikumarDivya Ravikumar COE’25, “Optimizing and Standardizing Quality Assessment of Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy Data”
Mentor: Erin Meier, Bouvé, Communication Sciences and Disorders
Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is a relatively new neuroimaging tool in neuroscience research. Since it requires direct contact with an individual’s scalp, fNIRS data is heavily affected by movement, causing motion artifacts. There is currently no gold standard for evaluating fNIRS data quality, leading to inconsistencies in published work. This project’s goal is to define the best method for motion artifact identification in language tasks. We aim to compare novel manual and automated artifact identification methods and compare these outputs to the other data quality measurements. Automated identification is expected to have a strong correlation to better data quality.
Sanjana SankarSanjana Sankar COE’24, “Investigating Composite Cathode Performance in Composite Solid Electrolyte Lithium-Ion Batteries”
Mentor: Joshua Gallaway, COE, Chemical Engineering
This project will investigate the cathode performance in composite solid electrolyte (CSE) lithium-ion batteries. The usage of poly(ethylene oxide) in cathodes as a continuous, ion-conducting matrix embedded within the cathode and the ion transport paths of the composite solid electrolyte in li-ion coin cells will be tested. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) will be used in this analysis to assess the continuity of phases between the CSE and the cathode to quantify the prevalence of void spaces in the composite cathode materials.
Madeline SzooMadeline Szoo COE’25, “Cryopreservation of Neural Progenitor Cells and Co-culture of Vascular Cells for Investigation of Vascular Graft Integration”
Mentor: Ryan Koppes, COE, Chemical Engineering
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, often requiring surgical intervention. However, bypass grafts demonstrate failure rates of about 50% at ten years post-operation. This project will optimize a novel organ chip design that may be used to study vascular graft integration into the arterial environment, as well as the role of sympathetic and parasympathetic neurons in this process. Specifically, this project will determine the optimal cryopreservation and culture conditions for venous endothelial and arterial smooth muscle cells.
Gwyneth WongGwyneth Wong COS’24, “Optimizing an Oxygen Releasing Cryogel Prostate Cancer Vaccine”
Mentor: Sidi Bencherif, COE, Chemical Engineering
My project is to optimize oxygen-releasing cryogels which would act as a delivery system for prostate cancer. The tumor microenvironment is hypoxic, which changes the characteristics and behavior of immune cells and decreases the activity of these cells. I will optimize the biomaterial design, characterization of the cryogels, and finally, encapsulation and release of bioactive materials from the cryogel. The cryogels are expected to disperse oxygen into the body in a controlled manner to induce immune cell activity.
Trail-Blazer Awardees
Maya de Los SantosMaya De Los Santos COE’25, “Building Community between Latin American Women in Gig Work through Culturally-Informed System Design”
Mentor: Saiph Savage, Khoury, Computer Science
The gig economy provides millions of crowd workers with flexible, secure jobs. Our project highlights the importance of considering the well-being and cultural backgrounds of crowd workers — especially those from marginalized backgrounds — when designing crowd work systems that analyze their labor. We surveyed 100 crowd workers in Latin America to understand the motivations, aspirations, and challenges behind their work. Our qualitative analysis reveals that many participants wish to connect with workers of similar backgrounds to share experiences and advice. Using these findings, we propose system designs to empower Latin American crowd workers to engage in collective action and form a community.


Related Faculty: Eno E. Ebong

Related Departments:Bioengineering, Chemical Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering