MacKenzie Tweardy  | Summer Research

What type of research did you work on?

During the summer of 2013, rather than finding an internship, I remained on campus and helped on a research project I worked with Dr. Eric Nauman from the School of Mechanical Engineering.  The focus of our project was to study the biomechanics of head injuries with special emphasis on football players. My role was to help develop a new football helmet and to research how impacts to one part of the head affect the rest of the skull and brain. 

How was your experience?

My experience was phenomenal.  I worked in the lab every day.  I was fortunate enough to work directly with Dr. Nauman once a week.  Creating the variations of the material involved varying the composition of the chemicals. In the lab, I would create different material tests using machining techniques to make new test rigs. I learned how to design a testing device and how to work in the machine shop.  The lab challenged me to think outside the box and teach myself new concepts.  It was a different way of thinking. I had to problem solve, but not the type of problems we get in class.  I had to find a solution to a problem that I didn’t know I had.  It was invigorating and exciting. 

This experience will definitely have a lasting impact on me.  Working in a research lab was a new challenge for me.  Because the research we were doing had never been done before, it required creative thinking while learning new concepts.  I couldn’t just google a question and find an answer.  It really made me think and discuss problems.  I worked with two other undergraduates.  The three of us really helped each other with designs, trouble shooting, and concepts.

What would tell others about conducting research?

Working in a lab for a summer on campus was awesome.  It is something that I firmly believe that all students should experience.  It was challenging and made me apply my academic knowledge to real life application. However, it also allowed me to create something new on my own that working in industry might not necessarily offer.  Gaining experience in the lab will really contribute to my future career as a biomedical engineer.

Overall, it was a really interactive and interesting project.  I worked closely with Dr. Nauman who has recently been named the top professor in the College of Engineering.  It’s not every day that you get to work with one of the best professors at one of the top research universities in the nation.  Working closely next to him helped inspire me to learn more, work more, and understand more.  This opportunity was unique because it allowed me to stay on campus while still gaining invaluable experience.  Although it wasn’t the true “industrial” experience, I believe that working over the summer, as an undergraduate researcher will contribute more to my value as a professional than working for a summer as an intern. I really enjoyed working on a current problem in society.

Top left: MacKenzie also happens to be an NCAA All American diver. Here she is at Minnesota's Natatorium in 2014.

Bottom right: MacKenzie diving at the Boilermaker Aquatic Center.