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Caroline Szczepanski ’09, Ben Towne ’09, and Marcella Nehrbass ’09 also presented research

Sriram Gopalakrishnan ’10 (Madurai, India), an electrical and computer engineering major, took second place in the sixth David and Lorraine Freed Undergraduate Research Symposium, held this month at Lehigh University.

Caroline Szczepanski ’09 (Elizabethtown, Pa.), a chemical engineering major; W. Ben Towne ’09 (Litchfield, N.H.), who is pursuing a B.S. in electrical and computer engineering and an A.B. with a self-designed major in community development; and Marcella Nehrbass ’09 (Ringoes, N.J.), an engineering studies major, also presented research at the symposium.

The focus of Gopalakrishnan’s research was using a computer simulation to integrate a ventricular assist device model with a model of the human cardiovascular system. He worked on the EXCEL project with Yih-Choung Yu, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

A ventricular assist device is a pump that helps a weakened heart beat and is used as a bridge to a heart transplant. These devices are generally tested first on animals and then on humans in clinical trials. “By having a model that simulates it, the initial stages of testing is safer and more controlled allowing for better results on the key variables,” Gopalakrishnan explained. The next stage of the work is to build a hardware model that mimics the behavior of the computer model.

Gopalakrishnan earned a $1,000 travel grant, which can be used to attend professional meetings, and $500 in cash for his second-place finish in the symposium. As one the top six finishers, he is also eligible to compete in the 2009 Academic Symposium on April 16 at Lehigh.

Szczepanski won first honorable mention for her project exploring the use of particles called reverse micelles as natural catalysts to perform chemical reactions. She performed her honors research under the guidance of Patricia Darcy, assistant professor of chemical engineering.

Towne presented his study of the feasibility of using renewable energy sources to reduce or eliminate the electric bill for Nazareth Borough’s wastewater treatment plant. He worked on the project with Diana Hasegan ’10 (Tirgu Mures, Romania), who is pursuing a B.S. in civil engineering and an A.B. with a major in economics and business; Art Kney, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering; and Javad Tavakoli, professor of chemical engineering.

Nehrbass, who is also a member of the College’s swimming and diving team, presented her independent study in which she explored the possibility of using hydrogen fuel as an alternative to petroleum. She also worked with Tavakoli.

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