PhD, Biology and Biotechnology
Great minds unite around shared passions. Listen to Melissa tell her story about how she found a calling for saving the bees.
PhD, Mechanical Engineering
Listen to Ryan describe what faculty members are like at WPI and how working alongside other great minds can accelerate your research in ways you never imagined.
PhD, Computer Science
Listen to Ramoza, a Fulbright scholar, talk about her experience as a graduate student engaged with other great minds on the challenge of harnessing Big Data.
Research that matters.
PhD, Business Administration
Great minds share a passion for new perspectives.
Hailing from Isfahan, Iran, Mina first came to WPI to earn her master’s degree in physics. After she graduated, she found that the strong critical thinking and problem solving skills she developed could be utilized in many different fields. She ultimately decided to return to WPI to earn her PhD in business administration based on her strong connection to WPI and the interdisciplinary research opportunities available.
“I had options to study at other universities, but I really liked the close-knit community at WPI,” says Mina. “At the time, my advisor—Soussan Djamasbi, a professor in the School of Business—was looking for a student who could bring a different perspective to her research program.”
Djamasbi’s User Experience & Decision Making lab is internationally recognized for pioneering the use of eye-tracking technology to investigate user experiences on interfaces like websites and mobile applications. Eye-tracking entails the use of a small camera-like device that emits an infrared beam calibrated to the reflection of a user’s pupil to provide information on where users look and how long they gaze at particular objects.
Mina’s research uses this technology to investigate how measurements of eye movements can determine the cognitive loads imposed on users by websites. In a recent experiment, she was able to detect with high accuracy whether a participant was under cognitive load—in this case working under a time constraint—during a problem-solving task. She hopes that such findings can help website designers in any field improve online experiences.
“Heavy cognitive loads can have negative consequences on both task completion and judgment,” she says. “By reducing the amount of mental activity required to interface with a website, we can enhance general user experiences and also make improvements in areas like online learning and accessibility for people with cognitive disabilities.”
While much of her research draws on the strong mathematical background she gained in her MS program, Mina also leverages insights from business and psychology.
“User experience is playing a major role in developing products and services that provide value from a business or social perspective,” she says. “My job is to take data from physiological signals, apply advanced mathematical models to make sense of that data, and then turn it into a design insight that creates a novel and useful experience. Course and project work in topics like business intelligence and have been instrumental in shaping my research.”
Mina believes that the strong interdisciplinary nature of her program, as well as its emphasis on real-life application, has prepared her for success after graduation.
“My time at WPI has allowed me to grow personally and professionally into a more confident scientist and engineer,” she says. “I have had many unique opportunities and experiences that have shaped my career path and given me the tools I need to be successful when I leave.”
Research that matters.
PhD, Biology and Biotechnology
Great minds commit novel approaches to longtime challenges.
His fascination with understanding how things work, alongside a passion for biological sciences, are what led Diego to study biotechnological engineering at the second oldest private university in Peru. Later, he developed a deep interest in immunology and infectious diseases, hoping one day to make important contributions to the field. Thus began the journey that would lead him to WPI.
Once accepted into the Fulbright Fellowship program, Diego had some important decisions to make. With guidance from his Fulbright advisor and LASPAU, he looked at the profiles of many schools in the U.S. that had great biology programs. What attracted him to WPI was the fact that it was a small school with a strong commitment to interdisciplinary study. At WPI, he formed friendships with others working at the life sciences and bioengineering building in Gateway Park in such fields as biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, and bioinformatics.
But it was his advisor, Reeta Rao, whose engagement with him over email and phone convinced him that his decision to trade the warm, sunny climate of Peru for the not-so-warm winters of New England was the right one. The first year into his studies he experienced the most snow on record in a city that saw over three feet from one snowfall. Yet he was happy to call Worcester home (once he learned how to pronounce it). Keeping his sense of humor, he joked, “I knew if I could survive that, I could survive graduate school!” It doesn’t hurt, he adds, that he finds the other students very friendly and welcoming.
Diego recognizes there is a lot to do in his field. Over the last three decades Candida albicans has become a significant cause of most nosocomial diseases of fungal origin. Currently, the cost of treating systemic candidiasis ranges from $1.5 to $2 billion per year and only in the U.S. However, and in spite of treatment, mortality rate can be as high as 50%.
“My laboratory has a preventive approach by using a novel compound (Filastatin) that prevents the adhesion of the fungal cells to biomaterials, such as catheters or dental implants, and might reduce the incidence of systemic infections.”
In addition, under Scarlet Shell’s guidance, he is studying tuberculosis (TB), a bacterial disease that is especially prone to drug resistance, can adapt to harsh microenvironments within the human body, and survive the immune defenses; this is what makes it so difficult to treat.
“I believe that tuberculosis is a fascinating area to explore. Over a hundred years of research on TB, and still there are many secrets hidden in the genome of this bacteria that allow it to survive stress conditions unlike any other. I plan to focus on the regulation of mRNA transcripts as an adaptive response to deleterious environment changes, and I hope to uncover some of its mysteries.”
PhD, Robotics Engineering
Listen to Christopher explain why great minds in research areas on campus are solving important real-world programs differently at WPI.