Research group name:

MIT Research Lab of Electronics: Fibers@MIT Group, under Professor Yoel Fink

MIT Media Lab: Responsive Environments Group, under Professor Joe Paradiso

Hometown, Country:

Friendswood, Texas, USA

What brought you to MIT

When I visited MIT as a high school student attending the Research Science Institute (RSI), I got a glimpse of a world of opportunity: not just cross-department collaborations, but entire disciplines working in harmony and achieving seemingly impossible goals. The intersection of science and the humanities; innovation seemingly without any bounds. I decided this was where I wanted to study: I envisioned myself in front of those same chalkboards that had silently witnessed decades of innovation and invention, and I yearned to drink from that firehose of knowledge and turn it into a launchpad from which I could use scientific research to help make people’s lives better. I believe in making a difference, and the instruction and opportunities at MIT have equipped me to create, test, iterate, and bring ideas into reality. Not only is it an incredibly intellectually enriching ecosystem, the amazing community has such a collaborative camaraderie, a tremendous diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and expertise, and a core shared goal of making the world a better place. It continues to inspire me as we all come together to forge a path into the future.

What problem are you trying to solve with your current research?

As human-computer interaction becomes increasingly prevalent, there is a need for strategies to interface digital technologies more closely with the human body. Smart textiles offer a suitable platform, since fabrics are ubiquitous in clothing and present on everyday objects. While the construction, appearance, and form of textiles have evolved throughout history, there has been minimal convergence of fabrics with computing. Recent work in the MIT Fibers Group has enabled the fabrication of polymer fibers with embedded microchips, and my work is focused on developing this nascent technology and creating fibers with embedded computational and sensing capabilities, which are for the first time establishing the prospect of woven, fabric-based computers.

What interests you most about your research? 

It’s been a very exciting opportunity to create a new paradigm of computing: over the last couple years, I’ve helped to create digital fibers with all the key components of a full computational system, including sensing, processing, memory, and communication. I was inspired by some of my previous research work: I had designed and developed robotic leg braces that can aid paralyzed or mobility-impaired patients in walking, and I had run into many limitations of conventional microcontrollers, especially in use cases like human-machine interfaces. I approached digital fibers as a new ecosystem for embedded systems, and I’ve been able to create solutions to some of those problems with this physically flexible and digitally scalable architecture. It’s been a rewarding intellectual exploration to combine electrical engineering, computer science, and experimental research, then tie our work into extensive applications beyond these fields.

What has it been like conducting research as an undergrad under the current conditions?

It’s definitely been an adjustment to conduct work-from-home research during COVID, but I’m thankful for the technology infrastructure MIT has helped provide to enable remote learning, and for the endless adaptability with which professors, graduate students, and entire research labs have been able to take remote collaboration in stride. I know many of my Course 7 and Course 20 peers have had wet-lab work impeded without access to labs on campus, but fortunately with EECS research, it’s been possible to conduct Zoom meetings and computational simulations, as well as shipping out parts and doing work remotely. I have a robotic arm set up on my table currently testing sensors for UROP work, and Course 6 classes have been able to ship out lab kits for students worldwide to prototype effectively.

What activities do you enjoy outside of your research?

I admire the power of music to connect emotions, cultures, languages, and eras through tangible experiences; I play violin and piano, and I enjoy playing and producing both classical and modern music. I view the world through a camera lens: filming wide landscapes from aerial drones gives me a sense of perspective, and photographing minuscule wildflowers with a macro lens lets me connect intimately with the smallest details of nature. On campus, in addition to my research work (in both fundamental and applied labs), I’m a MedLink first aid liaison, a member of the MIT Consulting Group, and I help lead multiple student communities: I’m Vice President of the New House dormitory, and I’m on the executive boards of the dynaMIT STEM Outreach program and the MIT IEEE/ACM professional organization. I’m driven by a motivation to serve my communities through thoughtful inventions and by helping bring people together, whether I’m representing peers through student governance, developing equitable housing strategies for the MIT administration, or just supporting members of my living group by bonding over video games and cooking together.

What are your future plans?

At MIT, not only have I been able to build a rigorous foundation in electrical engineering and computer science, I’ve also been able to complement it with training in public policy, innovative entrepreneurship, and even negotiation. It’s shown me how the most important part of engineering isn’t the blueprints, it’s the people. Only after you understand the human context of a problem — who will use something, why, and how — can you try to meet those needs appropriately. On campus, I’ve engaged in building technologies and communities alike, and after graduation, I plan to pursue a PhD to further combine fundamental and applied EECS research with critical interdisciplinary applications. With a scientific approach and people-centered focus, I believe we can develop more effective and equitable systems and processes throughout society. Whether inventing new technologies that can address unmet needs in society, using EECS principles to improve public- and private-sector decision making, or helping teach and empower the next generation of thinkers and doers, I’m confident that the problem-solving skills and grit I’ve developed here will help me to join with my peers in creating lasting positive impact on a global scale.