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 2020-2021 Luce Scholar 



Heather Nelson will graduate in May 2020 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in Design. She is passionate about human-centered design, where the user experience of a product or machine is thoroughly taken into account during the design and engineering process. Over the past two years, Heather has worked at the Self-Assembly Lab at MIT as an undergraduate researcher, focusing on sediment transport in atoll environments with the goal to design underwater systems that promote targeted sand accumulation and the growth of sandbars that can protect coastlines from rising sea levels due to climate change. This has been a special project for Heather, having grown up in New Jersey only minutes away from the ocean and having seen her familiar coastlines morph into unrecognizable beaches. She has also worked on 3D printing and additive manufacturing. On an internship at the Airbus headquarters in Spain, she developed a 3D printer for aerospace parts that uses recycled carbon fiber filament.

While working at MX3D in Amsterdam, she designed and manufactured a bicycle frame that was 3D printed out of aluminum, and researched wire arc additive manufacturing techniques. Her love of exploring new places has led her to volunteer at a special-needs community in Ireland, study integrating “serious games” in educational systems in France, teach electronics workshops to Palestinian refugees in Jordan, and research magnetostrictive materials in Italy. She speaks French, is conversational in Spanish, and enjoys learning bits of languages as she travels. Looking forward, she hopes to integrate her interests in mechanical engineering research, human-centered design, and sustainability to positively impact and empower communities around the world. Throughout her journeys, she enjoys documenting her experiences on her film camera and seeking out waves to surf.