Buckeye engineers take top honors at NSF conference

Posted: March 1, 2023

Two Ohio State University engineering students received first place awards at the 2023 Emerging Research National Conference in Washington, D.C. The event was hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Puri and Ibrahim holding award certificates
Puri (left) and Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim, a sophomore electrical and computer engineering major, earned first place in the undergraduate engineering and technology poster competition. Biomedical engineering senior Raima Puri delivered the best undergraduate presentation at the NSF Research Experience and Mentoring Meeting held in conjunction with the conference.

Ibrahim and Puri participate in Ohio State’s Student Experiences in Entrepreneurial Development (SEED) program, a collaboration between the Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship, the College of Engineering and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Ibrahim’s research focused on wearable technology for monitoring post-ACL reconstruction kinematics. Kinematics is a subfield of physics that describes the motion of objects without reference to the forces which cause the motion. His work in Associate Professor Asimina Kiourti’s Wearable and Implantable Technologies Research Group included the development of a sensor that can measure knee flexion throughout the day. The data gathered from this technology could assist medical professionals in determining how well a patient is healing from an ACL injury.

“I feel like this taught me the valuable skills and mindsets I need to thrive in STEM,” Ibrahim said. “It opened a world I never thought I’d be in.”

Puri works alongside Assistant Professor Katelyn Swindle-Reilly in the Lab for Biomimetic Polymeric Biomaterials. Her research concentrated on polymer substrates to prevent posterior capsular opacification (PCO), one of the most common complications that can occur following a cataract extraction. PCO can lead to increasingly cloudy vision over time. Puri observed how changing the properties of implantations that are used to treat cataracts can prevent PCO after surgery.

“Cataracts are one of the leading causes of blindness,” Puri said. “Having a program where I am really supported and made me feel like I am capable was really nice.”

Funded by an NSF Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) grant, the SEED program started in 2021. Students in the program participate in a 10-week research intensive summer internship and additional entrepreneurial learning activities throughout the academic year.

“The program affords access to underrepresented students while demystifying laboratory research, technology development, and the commercial potential of their research,” said Robert Decatur, director of the Morrill Scholarship Program in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

The internships took place in five labs at Ohio State, one lab at The University of Pennsylvania, and one lab at Duke University. Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor Carlos Castro served as the PI on the EFRI grant.

“It has been great to provide an opportunity to students who deserve it,” Castro said. “A lot of people provided opportunities for me. I think we have a duty to give students pathways.”

More than 1,200 students and researchers attended the Emerging Research National Conference.  Caroline Crisafulli, director of entrepreneurial education at the Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship, said all three of the Ohio State students who attended are outstanding representatives of the university and the SEED program.

“I am super proud of these students,” Crisafulli said.  “They represented Ohio State with tremendous poise and professionalism.”

modified version of Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship article