Just over a year ago, you could probably find me going through the grueling college admission process, making multiple drafts of college essays or rushing to keep up with a deluge of application deadlines, now I find myself writing my first blog post as a rising sophomore. Right before crossing over 6,000 miles across the Atlantic, I was still undecided in the choice of a major. This indecisiveness was one of the first realizations that I had as a freshman. Tufts, being an elite research institution, comes with a diverse array of options within the engineering department creating a paradox of sorts for someone like me. At once, I was at my idea of an academic mecca with an all-you-can-study buffet of majors ready to satiate my curiosity. I found myself trapped by abundance as spring approached with the looming threat of the declaration deadline. After taking a robotics class, which left me with an odd affinity for Mechanical Engineering, dabbling with the seductive world of Computer science, and having nuanced conversations with my Professors, I eventually declared a major in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in Computer Science!
Spring soon sprang away leaving campus lush with the summer greens, and I had to find something to productively occupy my first college summer. The idea of research seemed at first strange as I visualized myself cooped up in a non-ventilated basement lab, bent over a bunch of test tubes under the guidance of an elderly, witty and wise Professor. Finding research, especially as a freshman, is a bit tricky and to get a research position, you’ll have to be proactive. If there’s one piece of advice I’d give in terms of getting a research position it would be to just ASK! This may sound easy enough but so many people never do so or wait until it’s too late. Professors at Tufts are some of the most knowledgeable yet coolest people you’d ever meet; they are immensely helpful and really care about your day to day life. I spoke to a couple of professors, read up their research fields and they were nice enough to have discussions about potential projects that I could complete. After deciding that I wanted to do research this summer, I narrowed down my options to learning more about the field of robotics as it gives me a chance to explore a field I’ve always been interested in.
I reached out to my advisor and she offered me the opportunity to participate in a new summer research program within the department, the Research Introduction in Mechanical Engineering (RIME). As a RIME Scholar, I will have the opportunity to participate in three one-month long research lab rotations this summer.
For the month of June, I researched in Tufts’ CRISP lab learning about system controls and identification and how this can be applied to other fields. I started off by first learning how to use an Arduino which is essentially an open-source electronics platform that can be used to make a bunch of cool stuff. I was able to complete mini projects on the Arduino and this prepared me enough for the more complex projects I’ll be completing as summer goes by. The major attraction of research, for me, is the opportunity to learn at my pace without the pressure of getting good grades, this way, I could test the limits of my creativity and apply what I’ve learned in any way I choose to. So far, I’ve found this lab’s atmosphere to be very hardworking but at the same time inspiring. On a regular day at the lab, you could probably see undergraduate summer researchers working on projects like a robotic snow-melter or a personal assistant. Research so far has been an amazing experience and I’ll be sure to update you on the rest of my journey.