Montana State University

MSU engineering graduate heads off to Harvard for internship

May 2, 2014 -- By Sepp Jannotta, MSU News Service

Jordan Kennedy, who will graduate from Montana State University this weekend with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering, will soon be heading to Harvard for a summer post-baccalaureate research internship. MSU Photo by Kelly GorhamJordan Kennedy, a Montana State University graduating senior who grew up on a ranch between Cut Bank and Browning, will be investigating the material properties of complex fluids at Harvard in the lab of renowned Harvard physicist David Weitz. The Weitz lab has done groundbreaking work in the field of rheology â the study of deformation and flow of matter, typically the fluid dynamics of liquids and the plastic flow of solids. MSU Photo by Kelly Gorham.

Jordan Kennedy, who will graduate from Montana State University this weekend with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering, will soon be heading to Harvard for a summer post-baccalaureate research internship. MSU Photo by Kelly Gorham   High-Res Available

Subscribe to MSU Newsletters


Bobcat Bulletin is a weekly e-newsletter designed to bring the most recent and relevant news about Montana State University directly to friends and neighbors via email. Visit Bobcat Bulletin.

MSU Today e-mail brings you news and events on campus thrice weekly during the academic year. Visit the MSU Today calendar.

MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
msunews@montana.edu

BOZEMAN – Jordan Kennedy, who will graduate from Montana State University this weekend with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering, will soon be swapping out the blue and gold of MSU for the crimson of Harvard, where she will spend a summer doing post-baccalaureate research.

Kennedy, who grew up on a ranch between Cut Bank and Browning, said she will be investigating the material properties of complex fluids at Harvard, work that is similar to research she conducted at the MSU lab of Jennifer Brown, assistant professor in chemical and biological engineering and principal investigator in MSU’s magnetic resonance (MR) laboratory. Scholarships from the McNair Scholars and American Indian Research Opportunities programs funded Kennedy’s research in the MR lab, which is directed by Sarah Codd, professor of mechanical and industrial engineering and Joseph Seymour, professor of chemical and biological engineering.

Kennedy said her opportunity at Harvard is the result of MSU offering her the chance to do meaningful research as an undergraduate, as well as the support she’s received in her studies from MSU’s faculty and her fellow students.

“I’ve been trying to take this all in stride,” Kennedy said of her impending summer in Cambridge. “But once it really sank in I found myself thinking that I don’t even know how I will ever repay the professors who have helped give me this opportunity.”

Kennedy will spend the summer in the lab of renowned Harvard physicist David Weitz, who was mentor to Jim Wilking and Connie Chang, recent additions to the faculty in MSU’s Chemical and Biological Engineering Department. Brown, Codd, Seymour, Wilking and Chang are all affiliated with MSU’s Center for Biofilm Engineering, one of the nation's top institutes in researching microbial biofilms.

The Weitz lab has done groundbreaking work in the field of rheology – the study of deformation and flow of matter, typically the fluid dynamics of liquids and the plastic flow of solids.

Brown said Kennedy should be well prepared to make the most of her newest opportunity.

“Jordan has been doing research throughout her entire undergraduate career and has become an excellent experimentalist” Brown said. “She has had the opportunity to be very independent and motivate her own research interests, as well as mentor and train new undergraduate researchers in the lab.”

In Brown’s lab, Kennedy learned to mix two polysaccharides – a class of carbohydrates – to create a gel that is stronger than any one component. She learned to study the gel’s physical changes when it was heated or cooled.

She also experimented with adding nanoparticles to the gel, a process that has potential in the realm of drug delivery.

Understanding gel properties will also aid in the bioengineering of so-called tissue scaffolds, where the gel is seeded with stem cells to foster tissue regeneration. Material properties like stiffness can be tuned to accommodate different tissue types or possibly encourage the development of a certain cell type from stem cells.

It has been exciting working on science that has the potential to turn into a major leap in biomedical technology, Kennedy said.

Kennedy, who is a first generation descendant of the Blackfeet Tribe, was recruited to MSU to study engineering by EMPower (Engineering Minority Program), which encourages women and minorities to pursue engineering degrees.

Kennedy said she sort of stumbled into her love of engineering after initially thinking she would pursue a degree in pharmacy at the University of Montana. After her freshman year in Missoula, Kennedy spent a summer in Bozeman weighing her interest in engineering as an intern with the Western Transportation Institute, a federally funded research institute based at MSU’s College of Engineering.

“After that summer, I jumped at the opportunity” of the engineering scholarship that EMPower was offering, Kennedy said. “And then, from there I again kind of stumbled into (the MR) lab. I didn’t really have any concept of what kind of research they were doing.”

Regardless of how she arrived, Codd said Kennedy made the most of her time doing research at MSU, adding that the Harvard opportunity is not the first time Kennedy has turned her research experiences into bigger successes. As a sophomore Kennedy won first place in both the oral and poster presentation at the annual conference National American Indian Science and Engineering Society. She also landed internships at General Electric and Cargill.

Best of all, the experience Kennedy gained through MSU is something that she was always ready to share with other students through EMPower’s mentoring program or through other outreach projects, Codd said.

“Jordan’s been in our research lab for a number of years and she is always the first to put her hand up for any outreach effort,” Codd said. “She’s passionate about demonstrating the beauty of science and complex materials to visiting groups of young students. Her enthusiasm for what she’s presenting is infectious.”

Kennedy said she welcomes the chance to represent MSU and pay her love of science forward because the faculty never failed to give her a chance to prove herself, even when she lacked experience in the laboratory.

“MSU has been very good to me, and I don’t think I could have attained the success that I’ve had here if I’d been anywhere else,” Kennedy said. “It meant the world to me that a professor of Dr. Codd’s stature would offer me a chance to do research as an undergrad. The opportunities I’ve had – to be working with complex systems, to collaborate with excellent professors, graduate students and fellow undergrads in solving real-world problems – have prompted me to push myself, expanding on my strengths and improving my weaknesses.” 

Contact: Sepp Jannotta, (406) 994-7371, seppjannotta@montana.edu.


Warning: Unknown: open(/var/lib/php/session/sess_m5tu9rlbutaoagkh5eki6nk52401lo9a, O_RDWR) failed: Permission denied (13) in Unknown on line 0 Warning: Unknown: Failed to write session data (files). Please verify that the current setting of session.save_path is correct (/var/lib/php/session) in Unknown on line 0