Interned with: Florida Atlantic Biomechanics Lab in Boca Raton, Fla.
Major: Biology, pre-med
Hometown: Portsmouth, N.H.
Shark study: “I was in charge of my own independent project within the Florida Atlantic Biomechanics (FAU) lab, as part of the Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center (SNMREC). I examined the material properties of shark skin in order to assess what would potentially happen if a shark were to collide with an underwater turbine (the SNMREC’s main focus). I examined two shark specimens specifically. The first came from an 11.8-foot tiger shark, and the second came from a 12-foot great hammerhead. Both were found washed up dead on beaches close to Boca Raton.”
Close encounters: “I mainly focused on dissecting and examining pieces of shark skin to see how it would be influenced by an impact with a turbine. I had the opportunity to conduct my own research and got to see what it’s like to work in a laboratory designed for graduate research in biomechanics. In addition, I had the chance to go on a research boat to help with data collection. I also helped assess and measure a ray with an 8-foot wingspan that had gotten stuck on a fishing line. It was exciting having the chance to examine some of these giant aquatic animals up close.”
Opportunity calls: “This internship opportunity came to me through a Skype call in my ‘Comparative Biomechanics’ class, taught by Assistant Professor of Biology Laura Ekstrom. Marianne Porter (my mentor for the internship), had Skyped in to talk to us about one of her research papers involving the swimming locomotion of rays. At the end of the call, she mentioned the potential internship at FAU, and recommended that if we had interest, to apply. After learning more, I decided to take her up on the offer with the help of Professor Ekstrom.”
Learning from mistakes: “At one point halfway through my internship, I accidentally threw out a vital measuring tool used for creating skin samples. I was devastated at first and thought my project was over, but with a little help, I was able to use a 3-D printer to create a new one. I had never used a 3-D printer before but was ready to jump at any chance to replace the part (plus, I had always wanted to try out a 3-D printer). I never expected to learn about 3-D modeling during this internship, but with the right mistakes, anything is possible.”
Medical practice: “My career goal is to become an orthopedic surgeon, focusing on sports-related injuries. Understanding biomechanics, specifically the material properties of living tissues, is vital to the field. In addition to helping develop my knowledge in biomechanics, my time at FAU has given me the chance to experience what it truly means to conduct research. This will also undoubtedly be useful in medicine, where research is being conducted in many different settings and specialties. I was also able to visit the director of admissions for the Charles E. Schmidt School of Medicine while at my internship, where I received some excellent information on the application process for medical school.”