Cornell Engineering hosts CURIE Academy for high school girls

Curie scholars work together to repair a bone fracture.
Curie Scholars work together to repair a bone fracture.

Last week, Cornell Engineering hosted 43 junior and senior high school girls in Weill Hall for afternoon design and research sessions as part of Cornell Engineering Diversity Program’s CURIE Academy, a one-week summer residential program for high school girls who excel in math and science.

Held Sunday to Saturday July 14-20 at various locations across Cornell’s campus, the CURIE Academy featured morning field sessions led by Cornell Engineering faculty in various engineering disciplines, followed by afternoon sessions involving a research/design project, where CURIE Scholars worked in small collaborative groups under the auspices of a Cornell Engineering faculty research director.

A group of Curie Scholars in the lab.
A group of Curie Scholars in the lab.

This year’s program was led by Sibley School of Mechanical Engineering associate professor Nelly Andarawis-Puri and was titled, “Designing a hydrogel to improve tendon healing.” Working with graduate students from Sibley School and the Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering in these sessions, CURIE Academy Scholars focused on the promising approach of using tissue-engineered scaffolds to improve healing in tendon injuries. Using tendons from chickens, the scholars explored the mechanics of tendon injuries alongside the design of gel-based scaffolds to assess the ways in which these scaffolds could be manipulated to modify mechanical properties, cell behavior, protein encapsulation and release, and structure, and ultimately to affect healing efficacy.

Also participating from the Sibley School were Professor Betta Fisher, who presented a field session on mechanical engineering to the Curie Scholars, and Ph.D. candidate Marysol Luna, who was the program's resident hall director and led the residential staff.

A Curie scholar isolates chicken tendon in the lab.
A Curie Scholar isolates chicken tendon in the lab.

In addition to the week-long program delivered by the Andarawis-Puri lab, the Meinig School’s van der Meulen lab hosted a one-hour session with participants, where students worked in groups to design a device to repair a broken bone. Students then presented their designs, and the groups discussed the similarities of the presented designs to current fracture-repair technology.

Scholar Ashley Miller, a rising senior, said of the event, "I am 100% sure I want to be an engineer now as I realized how open the possibilities for jobs after graduation are and how impactful engineering is."

The CURIE Academy is a one-week summer residential program for high school girls who excel in math and science. The focus is on juniors and seniors who may not have had prior opportunities to explore engineering, but want to learn more about the many opportunities in engineering in an interactive atmosphere. The program is led by Cornell University's world-renowned faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students, who lead CURIE participants in field sessions, lab demonstrations, and project research. Social events, informal panel discussions, and other out-of-classroom activities provide participants with opportunities to network informally with Cornell faculty, staff, and students.

The Andarawis-Puri Lab investigates the structural and regulatory role of the extracellular matrix (ECM) of the tendon in the pathogenesis of tendinopathy and impaired healing of ruptured tendons, using a multi-disciplinary approach that incorporates biomechanics, biology, and imaging.

The van der Meulen lab investigates how bone, cartilage and other joint tissues adapt to the mechanical loading they experience in vivo.  

More info: Nelly Andarawis-Puri; Marjolein van der Meulen; van der Meulen Lab; CURIE Academy; Cornell Engineering Diversity Programs in Engineering

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