CAMBRIDGE, MA—Innovation was on the agenda recently at Draper when new research was presented by 17 Master’s and Ph.D. students whose graduate study has been supported by the Draper Scholars Program. The research was wide-ranging, and the applications were real-world: heart valves, hypersonics, snowpack detection and astronaut health were among the areas of research.
The event was the Draper Research Symposium, in which Scholars present their thesis research in addressing and solving some of the most challenging engineering, technological and scientific problems.
The 2023 Symposium did not disappoint. Here are a few highlights.
- Christine Chang, a Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado, Boulder, presented on collaborative planning and negotiation in human-robot teams.
- Michelle Nguyen, a Ph.D. student at Boston University, presented on Covid’s impact on blood vessels.
- Thomas Abitante, a Ph.D. student studying health sciences and technology at MIT, presented on a wearable device that could keep NASA astronauts healthier in space.
- Erin Shaughnessey, a Ph.D. student at Tufts, described a new approach to drug development that uses organ-on-a-chip human tissue models—a method that provides more human-like results than animal studies, a potential boon to medical researchers and pharmaceutical companies.
- Ken Kuppa, a Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado, Boulder, earned the top scholar award for his research on spacecraft navigation around small celestial bodies.
New this year, 28 students representing six universities presented research posters as part of the Undergraduate Senior Capstone Student Projects. A team from Olin College earned the top spot for designing and demonstrating in a lab a low-cost plasma thruster for moving spacecraft between orbits and interplanetary destinations.
The keynote, by Dr. Dava Newman, Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics Humanity at MIT and Director of the MIT Media Lab, touched on the importance of nurturing student research. “Empowering the next generation of student scholars allows us to investigate dream projects, including those that will enable humanity to become interplanetary.”
The 2023 Draper Scholars class includes students from Boston University, Brown, Harvard, MIT, Northeastern, Purdue, Tufts, University of Massachusetts, University of Colorado, University of South Florida and University of Washington. The program is aiming to support 75 students in the 2023/2024 class, and has a goal to triple the number by 2033.
Brenan McCarragher, principal director of Science and Technology at Draper, said the program, which he directs, provides an opportunity for students to benefit from not only immersion in their university’s academic research environment, but also from Draper’s facilities, collective knowledge and experience. “Draper has more than 50 years of history bridging government, industry and academia to foster transformational innovation. We bring that experience to our student scholars and university partners through the Draper Scholars Program to accelerate game-changing, real-world results. These collaborations catalyze solutions to some of the world’s most complex challenges.”
Since 1973, the Draper Scholars Program, formerly known as the Draper Fellow Program, has supported more than 1,300 graduate students pursuing advanced degrees in engineering and the sciences. Draper Scholars are from both civilian and military backgrounds and Draper Scholar alumni excel worldwide in the technical, corporate, government, academic and entrepreneurship sectors.
Details about the program, including how to apply, are available at Draper.