Student/Faculty Stories

Leah's Bike

Not many engineers can say they’ve worked with local businesses, industry leaders and an 11-year-old girl to design new and innovative brakes for a bicycle.

Leah Xiao-Chan O’Keefe wanted a “big kid” bike that could shift gears, but she was born with fingers that did not extend past the first knuckle, and so braking comfortably or safely was impossible.

“I wanted a bike that could shift gears, but those bikes don’t stop when you go backward,” says Leah. “So, if you have one with shifting gears, the brake is on the handlebar, but I couldn’t reach with my hands.”

Read more.

Practicing What He Teaches

By Carrie Benseler

mark walter stands in front of a house

Changing the world by raising awareness of renewable resources and sustainable design is both a personal and professional interest of Mark Walter.

Walter is an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and, since 2007, he has been a faculty advisor to the university’s Solar Decathlon team, one of 20 student teams in the U.S. Department of Energy competition to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive.

“Working on the Solar Decathlon has changed my life. It has changed virtually everything, including the direction of some of my research and how I live at home,” says Walter.

Read more.

Confronting Cancer in and beyond the Lab

Jessica Winter sits in front of her violin Jo McCulty

By Katelyn Vitek

It’s a good thing Jessica Winter likes a challenge. An associate professor in chemical engineering, Winter entered her field as a way to try something new. She has ended up challenging health-related research and the field of medicine to create viable treatment options for cancer patients.

When she was diagnosed with cancer herself early this year, Winter changed her focus from conducting bench-top research to translating her findings into discoveries that could be tested clinically. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and working at Intel for two years, Winter explored other research topics in graduate school at the University of Texas-Austin and found her niche in the study of nanoparticles.

Read more.