Faculty Research Celebration Highlights Mentorship On Campus

Anna Fisher-Pinkert | May 04, 2017
Alyssa Benalfew and Lina Cañon

Alyssa Benalfew and Lina Cañon
Image by: Anna Fisher-Pinkert

Attendees at Tuesday's Faculty Research Celebration learned about topics as diverse as robotic technology, human infant development, and health care policies and engagement with communities of color.

The celebration, hosted by the Friends of the Library, highlighted “The Teaching Soul: Research and Mentoring,” showcasing three undergraduate researchers and their mentors. The event is a part of SEEDs week (Spring Enrichment and Engagement Days).

“This is a very special event,” Chancellor J. Keith Motley said to the crowd in the Integrated Sciences Complex. “It allows us to celebrate individual, departmental, and team accomplishments.”

Grant Rudd, an engineering major in the College of Science and Mathematics, presented his work with Assistant Professor of Computer Engineering Filip Čučkov on the development of the Cyber-Phyiscal, or “Cy-Phy” lab. Čučkov explained that the lab’s name might sound like a pun, but it also holds real meaning.

“Today’s fiction is tomorrow’s reality,” he reminded the group.

Filip Čučkov and Grant Rudd speak with Chancellor J. Keith Motley

Čučkov and Rudd are working with their colleagues in the new Engineering Department to push the limits of robotic technology, from developing robot hand exoskeletons, to working on specialized robotic arms. Čučkov said that Rudd has been instrumental in building the capacity of the lab. Rudd credited his Beacon Student Success Fellowship for giving him the funding he needed to devote time and energy into lab research.

Najah Walton, a nursing major, presented research with her mentor, Associate Professor of Psychology Tiffany Donaldson.

Najah Walton and Associate Professor of Psychology Tiffany Donaldson

Walton used rat models to learn about human infant development. She focused on hypoxia ischemia, a form of brain damage that happens when the infant brain doesn’t receive enough blood. Walton was a part of the Health Equity Scholar Program. She learned vital bench science skills and worked at the cutting edge of hypoxia ischemia research.

Alyssa Benalfew, a philosophy and public policy major in the Honors College, used her Beacon Student Success Fellowship to fund her internship with the Edward M. Kennedy Institute.

Working with Lina Cañon, volunteer and intern program manager, Benalfew researched Senator Kennedy’s healthcare policies, and worked on engagement with communities of color through the institute’s public facing programs. Cañon was proud to mentor a young woman of color, and to watch Benalfew mentor younger students after her internship was over. Benalfew was delighted to be able to connect with Cañon, who encouraged her to think about how she could change the world as an individual.

“Without the Beacon Student Success Fellowship, I wouldn’t have been able to do my internship at the EMK,” Benalfew said.

The $2,000 she received through the fellowship helped Benalfew to launch her career. She plans to attend graduate school and get her degree in public health.

Benalfew summed up the value of mentorship to students at UMass Boston: “Having people provide that strong, direct, even intrusive mentorship – those are the people who keep students going.”

Tags: cla , cnhs , computer science , csm , emk , emk institute , engineering , internships , mentorship , philosophy

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