A trio of Tickle College of Engineering students have been named Fulbright Students—one of the most prestigious programs in the world—in recognition of their work as undergraduates.
Brooks Leftwich and Jackson Wilt, both seniors in mechanical engineering, and Ana Koumtcheva, a senior in civil engineering, were selected for the honor and will now head to various parts of the world to enhance and implement their research as part of the program.
“We’re very proud of our three students who were selected and thrilled that the Fulbright program chose to recognize them for their efforts,” said Dean Janis Terpenny, the Wayne T. Davis Endowed Dean’s Chair for the college. “Their selection also signifies that their research ideas hold importance for the world, and we can’t wait to see them succeed in their endeavors.”
Koumtcheva to Study Environmentally-Friendly Architecture in Bulgaria
Ana Koumtcheva, who is of Bulgarian descent and fluent in the language, will head to New Bulgarian University in Sofia, the country’s capital, where she will merge her background in civil engineering and architecture, in which she minored.
There, she hopes to study Bulgarian homes of the 19th century, which were built with sustainability in mind, to help form new ideas and concepts that will allow for building designs of the future that keep the environment in mind.
“I’m very interested in mass development such as residential construction,” she said. “The way we do it in the US is actually a pretty lacking in sustainability policies, and there’s an absence of architects and engineers in that area. During the Bulgarian Revival, the country flourished economically and culturally, and due to a massive preservation effort of buildings from this period, there is a large amount of preserved, long-lasting homes to study and bring insight to US mass construction.”
The Bulgarian homes she’ll be studying were built with resources local to the area they were constructed in, and even the trees surrounding them were planted with regard to shielding it from the elements and providing natural light.
Her research will take her to different climatic zones in the country to study a range of sustainable construction, and will be under guidance from the dean of architecture and an architect with a private firm.
Leftwich to Help Plan English Lessons in Taiwan
Brooks Leftwich, of Lewisburg, Tennessee, will work with educators in Taiwan to collaborate on English lessons and serve as a native speaker of the language while in the classroom.
It won’t be his first experience in an educational setting of another country: He spent the summer of 2017 in Oxford, England, as part of UT’s study abroad program.
“UT has opened countless doors and provided outstanding opportunities to grow and challenge myself every step of the way,” Leftwich said. “I would not be where I am today without the education I received in the MABE department. I have gained invaluable experience that has prepared me for whatever the future holds.”
He earned Summa Cum Laude honors, with a minor in reliability and maintainability engineering, and has been awarded the Extraordinary Academic Achievement graduation citation. Past awards he has received include the Henry C. Goodwich Cooperative Engineering Award and the Christopher Dowdle Memorial Scholarship.
His time at UT has seen him serve as an active member of the campus community, including both the Cook Grand Challenge Scholars and Chancellor’s Honors Programs, the college’s Office of Engineering Professional Practice, the Student Code of Conduct Review Committee, and several others. His research project, Montgomery 1960: Using Technology to Teach Empathy and Perspective Taking, was accepted to a trio of national conferences.
Leftwich also completed a year-long co-op assignment as a process engineer at the Nissan Smyrna Vehicle Assembly Plant, where he worked on the front-end assembly of the Altima and Leaf.
After completing the Fulbright assistantship, Leftwich hopes to gain industry experience and then pursue a graduate degree in engineering education.
Wilt Hopes to Push Boundaries of Healthcare While in Amsterdam
Jackson Wilt, of Goodlettsville, Tennessee, will be conducting research at the University of Amsterdam, where he hopes to expand on knowledge he gained while working in MABE Assistant Professor Brett Compton’s research group.
There, he will focus on 3D printing soft pneumatic devices for medical purposes, specifically for artificial hearts. He also plans to implement machine learning to better understand the control of hyperplastic materials in the devices.
“The Fulbright will give me the opportunity to participate in this global health project that will require scientific cooperation across international lines,” Wilt said. “I will be able to bring my experiences to contribute to the project. I also hope to represent an ambassador exemplifying and demonstrating American ideals abroad.”
He earned Magna Cum Laude honors, with his work at UT resulting in several awards, including the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Sylvia W. Farny Scholarship and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Award honorable mention.
Wilt was a very active member and treasurer of the Engineering Mentor Program and American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
He interned at Oak Ridge National Laboratory through the Department of Energy’s Student Undergraduate Laboratory Internship Program, through which he demonstrated 3D printing technology to children to improve their understanding of basic science and engineering principles.
He hopes to duplicate that effort in Amsterdam at the NEMO Science Museum, community centers, and children’s hospitals.
Wilt plans to pursue his doctorate degree in mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. He said he is preparing for a career in academia, but will ultimately choose a career path that will have the most benefit to humanity.