PhD, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Being at a smaller research university, and not being one in a crowd, means Brittany and her peers are making contributions more often and earlier in their careers.
PhD, Biology and Biotechnology
At WPI, you will find bright and energetic minds like Diego’s, coming together to form the next generation of graduate students making advances in human health and disease.
PhD, Materials Science Engineering
When Kristin Sundberg first came to WPI as a biomedical engineering undergrad, she never envisioned finding a supportive, close-knit, and collaborative community where she would stay to earn her MS and her PhD. Ultimately, her student experiences with independent project-based work and industry partnerships helped her embark on an accelerated path for graduate degrees in materials science and engineering.
“I went in with a strong plan and big ambitions to complete my PhD part time—in three years,” Sundberg says, noting how her particular research in cutting-edge antimicrobial copper cold-spray technology combined her two academic interests. “You are in charge of your own research path and interests here.”
Sundberg carves a trail that is entirely her own at WPI, as she combines her degree requirements with industry work. “It would normally take a PhD candidate years to get to this point, and I am here in six months because of the fluidity and the communication between WPI and Raytheon [where Sundberg works as a systems engineer],” she says. That means her research is fast-paced and will make an impact that much sooner. “To me ‘research that matters’ means novel research and technology development and can also encompass the improvement of existing technology for a more efficient or effective solution,” she says.
At WPI, Sundberg found an ambitious community with high standards, a passion for working together in open labs, and approachable faculty. “Interdisciplinary collaboration is key for success both at WPI and in industry,” says Sundberg. “Many of the best ideas are discovered through diversification. It is important to be able to communicate with folks from varying backgrounds in order to solve today’s biggest challenges.”
Sundberg found that even mentoring took on a novel meaning for her at WPI. She relies on her designated advisors, Rick Sisson and Danielle Cote, but finds guidance even from younger students. “The barriers aren’t up here,” she says. “At the end of the day, someone is the professor, but at meetings and collaborations with undergraduates, grad students, PhDs, and professors, every one of us is an equal. It’s refreshing—there’s that mutual respect. The mentoring cycle here is very fluid, which is a very modern way of looking at it.”
The commitment to collaboration and sharing ideas in the pursuit of developing something bigger and better transcends a typical hierarchy found at many schools, she says. Sundberg says her research and publications often include input from undergrad, grad, and faculty resources which nourishes a cycle of teamwork.
Although Sundberg’s current work as a systems engineer seemingly has little foundation in BME or materials science engineering, her education elevates the job skills she brings to the table, she says. “Part of this opportunity was because I had a background in materials and in BME,” she says. “That showed Raytheon I could diversify and collaborate. They could tell I had the ability to learn on the go. Systems engineering is all about trying to understand many pieces of the puzzle and putting them together.”
As Sundberg discovered, when the environment challenges you to reach higher, you can achieve great results. “You are your own motivator here,” says Sundberg. “Anyone can do it—you just have to put your best foot forward.”
PhD, Chemical Engineering
Researchers, like Avery, and across WPI are looking for solutions to some of the greatest challenges we face, such as how to repurpose and recycle bio-waste.
Discovery and Innovation with Purpose
PhD, Biomedical Engineering
Great minds are making discoveries inside the biomedical engineering department, where researchers like Josh are leading the charge for biomaterials and tissue engineering.
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.”
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, Robotics Engineering
Listen to Christopher explain why great minds in research areas on campus are solving important real-world programs differently at WPI.
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.
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.
MS, Interactive Media and Game Development
A passion for virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and AR data visualization led Jing Xiong from her hometown in Wuhan, China, to the WPI campus. While researching grad schools, Jing found that WPI’s Interactive Media & Game Design (IMGD) program had what she wanted. But it was talking with two friends, both WPI alums, who helped her make a final decision.
Both had great experiences here and gave Jing an impression of a school that offered solid academics, an active grad student community, and an extensive network in her field that would help her after graduation. Their personal experiences with WPI’s environment and commitment to graduate student research confirmed she was making the right choice.
“The IMGD program at WPI ranked at the top of the lists, as it combines academic research and practice,” Jing says. “The curriculum is flexible and covers what I expected out of a college experience, whereas the art and tech courses ramp me up to become a well-rounded, full-stack developer. WPI has a VR lab with the latest devices that allows my exploration, along with professors who are experienced in VR and AR.”
At WPI Jing found that IMGD studies were holistic and incorporated all elements of the user experience. “The process of research is of vital importance for my projects, where new ideas are brainstormed,” she says, noting her thesis project is on a virtual reality horror game. “My teammates and I tested the horror elements in a game. This research integrated a third-party device to improve the experience of horror, and the combination resulted in our being able to apply the information to our thesis, as well as to other horror games.”
With such a diverse population of grad students, students work together and learn from each other, Jing says. “The atmosphere in which innovation occurs at WPI is fairly advanced,” she explains , noting that faculty members are skilled at advising students on all levels. “My mentors helped me pave my career path by preparing me mentally, socially, and academically.”
If Jing has an idea, but isn’t sure how to bring it to fruition, undergraduate and graduate students with expertise in another specialty are happy to collaborate. “The sense of teamwork permeates throughout the whole academic community here,” says Jing. “For individual projects, we can ask for suggestions from faculty in both the tech and art aspects of what we are doing.” Even academic requests for specific software and hardware are fulfilled, she says, lessening the stress around completing essential projects.
WPI’s cutting-edge equipment and access to new technology allows an expanded approach to IMGD. Being able to access technology like HoloLens, Oculus, or HTC Vive gives students a valuable perspective.
Jing’s graduate studies also gave her opportunities outside the classroom. By showcasing her games at the state-wide collaborative Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDIGI) and at major gaming conferences like PAX East, she gained presentation skills and added to her growing network of graduate researchers and industry leaders.
At WPI, Jing’s multilayered approach to interactive media and game design is comprehensive. “It empowers me with the practical skills and thoughtful mind to enter the game industry,” she says, “and get hands-on experience with frontier technology and devices.”