A decade of support for women in engineering, research rigor, and academic achievement

The Thompson-Bartlett Summer Research Fellowship turns 10

Alumni pose with scholarship recipients

Career coach and benefactor, Dede Bartlett (back row, third from left), with alumni and students at the Princeton Club

This year, the 10th cohort of Thompson-Bartlett Summer Research Fellows is getting the opportunity to work under the auspices of NYU Tandon’s Undergraduate Summer Research Program — an initiative in which faculty members open their labs to allow a select group of students to complete 10 weeks of hands-on research, participate in seminars, and present their results. The Fellows, a group of women chosen from the overall pool of applicants accepted to the program, receive a generous stipend, affording even those who might otherwise have to find summer jobs a chance to participate. 

The fellowships are funded each year by Dede Bartlett, a former executive with the Fortune 500 companies Exxon Mobil and Altria, who does so in honor of her father, George Juul Thompson. Thompson graduated in 1930 from what was then known as Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and returned to teach electrical engineering at the school from 1948 to 1968. Over the course of those two decades, he had only one female student, Bartlett has recalled, and she became determined to help change the situation. Dede Bartlett

"Over the last decade, Dede Bartlett has helped NYU Tandon advance our goals towards diversity and gender parity,” said Dean Jelena Kovačević. “Her generous fellowship initiative has enabled dozens of outstanding women students to undertake ambitious research projects, and the experience has been transformative for many of them. On behalf of the entire Tandon community, I thank her for her dedication to our school, her belief in our students, and her support of our endeavors."  

We recently caught up with a few Fellows to find out what they’re up to and how the program impacted them. 

Kubra Akbas

Year of Graduation or Projected Graduation: 2018 (B.S.), 2019 (M.S.)

Fellowship Research: My main focus was on energy systems and how power is generated for electricity; particularly in Combined Cycle Power Plants, which integrate both gas and steam turbines in their process.

Currently, I’m: a Ph.D. student studying biomedical engineering, with a focus on lower limb biomechanics and rehabilitation.

Impact: The Fellowship was my first real experience with research, and it provided me with the opportunity to experience other realms of academia beyond the classroom. Additionally, I was able to meet and connect with peers from other disciplines, with who I may not have otherwise had the chance to interact with.


Julia Kim

Year of Graduation or Projected Graduation: 2023

Fellowship Research: I researched wetland species and created infographics highlighting plant relations.

Currently, I’m: continuing on with that research. 

Impact: Although the program was conducted remotely because of the pandemic, I learned a great deal. In one of our meetings we took a personality quiz, and it opened my eyes to the idea of not only staying "true to your colors," but being mindful of the true colors of other people. This will help me to see eye-to-eye with team members in the future,  and to help everyone feel comfortable in a group environment.


Kristen Marventano

Year of Graduation or Projected Graduation: 2017

Fellowship Research: I researched an underground wire splicer for Con Edison. 

Currently, I’m: working in my dream job as a Software Engineer at my top-choice company, Google--a position I was able to secure even before I graduated.

Impact: The Fellowship definitely had a positive impact on me. It gave me a great sense of community and impressed recruiters when it came time to apply for jobs.


Rana Mohamed

Year of Graduation or Projected Graduation: 2023

Fellowship Research: As a Fellow, I worked on standing push recovery for humanoid robots, which means I located the balanced region that would allow the robots to withstand the force of a push.

Currently, I’m: a junior majoring in mechanical engineering with a minor in robotics here at NYU. As of late, I have been working on two research projects. One involves optimizing the energy expenditure of a humanoid robot through the optimization of the mechanical and electrical components of the robot's motor controllers. The other is using machine learning techniques such as Learning from Demonstration and Reinforcement Learning to teach surgical robots to perform manipulations such as suturing and surgical incisions autonomously.

Impact: I met the most amazing women while I was part of this fellowship and learned how to become a better student and researcher. I learned things I still use as a student and researcher now. The support and connections I made through this Fellowship are ones I will always cherish.


Michelle Ren

Year of Graduation or Projected Graduation: 2023

Fellowship Research: I worked on a project to determine the feasibility of shuttle usage in place of nighttime subway suspension due to COVID-19. It was supervised by Professor Joseph Chow and my research mentor, Gyugeun Yoon. During that time, I learned a lot about the concepts surrounding transportation, and the work also opened my eyes to sustainability in all branches of civil engineering. 

Currently, I’m: conducting research under Professor Debra Laefer. My team and I are working on mapping and contextualizing brownfields within Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The end goal is to present a ranked list of brownfields for priority remediation and redevelopment to the community. 

Impact: The Fellowship has connected me to a group of women who continue to inspire me and has allowed me to learn about things outside of academics. It provides an amazing amount of support.


Rhea-Donna Reyes

Year of Graduation or Projected Graduation: 2020

Fellowship Research: I studied alternative pathways for chemical reductions using aluminum alloys.

Currently, I’m: applying for Ph.D. programs in chemistry to study green technology and preparing to teach in the NYU College of Arts and Science chemistry department in Fall 2021

Impact: The Bartlett Fellowship brought me close to many female researchers in STEM who I still keep in touch with. I think that bond allows us to lift each other up and support each other when things are difficult. Over the pandemic, I kept in close contact with one of my peers, who later told me that even though we were apart, my messages to her really helped on her bad days. The Fellowship leadership programming was also a good opportunity for me to reflect on myself in a guided and productive manner so that I could grow my views as an individual and mature my perspectives about the world around me. I'm grateful to Dede Bartlett for her support for me and my fellow females in STEM and will use the experiences and skills I gained in my future pursuits as a researcher.


Chase Rosenberg

Year of Graduation or Projected Graduation: 2021 

Fellowship Research: My project was called "Biosensors for Food Allergies." I performed a literature review on Whispering Gallery Mode (WGM) biosensor technology and designed a custom MATLAB program to remove noise from biosensor data.

Currently, I’m: pursuing a master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering, which I expect to earn in 2022.

Impact: The Thompson-Bartlett Fellowship gave me the opportunity to connect with other women in STEM and form both a support network and a professional network.


Amanda Setiawan

Year of Graduation or Projected Graduation: 2015

Fellowship Research: I worked on both biomechanical energy modeling of the human body and the energy consumption of coal-powered plants during start-up processes.

Currently, I’m: working as a mechanical engineer to assess, repair, and improve sanitary infrastructure for rural Alaska Native communities. I develop renewable energy and other energy-saving installations to lower the effective cost of sanitary services for rural villages. My job currently allows me to travel all around the state via small planes, helicopters, and boats! 

Impact: The Thompson-Bartlett Fellowship allowed me to work alongside faculty and researchers who really cared about helping me carve out a career path that matched my interests. To this day, I still utilize many of the engineering skills that I picked up during the course of the research program, especially programming languages and technical writing.


Chappel Sharrock Thornton

Year of Graduation or Projected Graduation: 2018

Fellowship Research: I worked with Professor Bruce Garetz to study grain orientation from a copolymer using depolarized light scattering. 

Currently, I’m: a Ph.D. candidate focusing on materials science and engineering.

Impact: The Fellowship connected me with a Tandon professor with whom I would go on to work for two years. I wrote my undergraduate thesis based on my research with his group and won an award for the best undergrad thesis in our department in 2018. I learned a lot about research and academia in general during the program, and as a doctoral student I’m now conducting my final “research stepping stone.”


Nicole Zhao

Year of Graduation or Projected Graduation: 2022

Fellowship Research: I conducted research in communications and outreach at Tandon’s GovLab, which aims to better society’s understanding of how to govern effectively and transparently with the help of technology.

Currently, I’m: a Product Development Intern at the Estee Lauder Companies. 

Impact: The Fellowship gave me the opportunity to be part of an amazing group of female students who have uplifted and empowered me well beyond my summer in the program.


Cindy Zhang

Year of Graduation or Projected Graduation: 2017

Fellowship Research:  I did research on metastatic cancer and investigated the role of hyaluronan in cancer cell signaling under Dr. Sarah Wilcox-Adelman. 

Currently, I’m: a Sales Engineer at Johnson Controls.

Impact: The Fellowship has provided a network for me as a female engineer and scientist. It has also given me opportunities that I never thought I would have. I have gained a lot of confidence as a result. After graduation, I started out managing a research laboratory at one of the most prestigious cancer hospitals in the nation. I now work at Johnson Controls, where I offer business value and sell engineering solutions to clients.


Assistant Dean for Opportunity Programs and Academic Affairs Nicole Johnson and Director of Academics and Global Programs Sara-Lee Ramsawak provided an opportunity for Fellows to send personal wishes to Bartlett, and the heartfelt sentiments they expressed included: 

A big thank you for sponsoring this program. I hope that it opens up great opportunities for other engineers as it did for me.”
— Amanda Setiawan

Thank you so much for creating this fellowship program. As a woman in STEM it is inspiring to have a space designed to empower us that feels safe and nurturing.”
— Nandita Kohli

The fellowship has connected me to a group of women who continue to inspire me and has opened my eyes to many different things. It was amazing to have the support of the fellowship throughout my summer. Thank you!”
— Michelle Ren

The Thompson Bartlett Fellows Program allowed me to connect with other women in STEM and recognize that we all face similar struggles. Thank you for providing this opportunity for women in STEM to grow both personally and professionally!"
— Chase Rosenberg

I realized in my junior year that I chose the wrong major. It was too late to switch and I had to finish my degree. This fellowship allowed me to work on important and interesting research that directly pertained to the field I wished to pursue. It helped me get future research positions and get into my first choice graduate school. Thank you so much for this amazing opportunity! Five years later, it still means so much."
— Eve Fishinevich

The fellowship gave me a place to explore research and my interests. It gave me skills and confidence to pursue my dreams, as well as a killer resume that helped me land my dream job. Thanks so much!"
— Kristen Marventano