Interview with Becky Belisle '10 by Olin Communications Assistant Ariana Chae '15
Q: Hi Becky! Thanks for agreeing to chat with us here at PGP. Tell us a little about what you did during your Fulbright year.
A: I spent the year living in Bath, UK as a member of the University of Bath's mechanical engineering department. Within the department I was researching a plastic made by Colletes halophilus (a bee native to Eastern England) in hopes of inspiring the next generation of bioplastics, expanding on the research I completed at Olin with professors Debbie Chachra and Chris Morse. When not in the lab, I was generally gardening (I grew approximately the biggest sunflower ever - just saying), hiking or refining my 'completing crosswords in pubs' skills.
Q: That sounds like a fun and rewarding year! What are you up to now that you have completed your Fulbright?
A: Now I am working for the Wyss Institute for Bio-inspired Engineering at Harvard University. I'm a Wyss fellow here doing research with Professor Joanna Aizenberg to develop novel biomimetic materials. The project I'm currently working on is developing ultra-repellent surfaces inspired by pitcher plants. Up until now lotus leaves have been the benchmark for super-repellent surfaces, but with these new materials we can prevent nearly everything from adhering to a surface. You should check out these videos if you're interested: http://www.youtube.com/user/SlipperySurfaces. Looking forward, I've been applying to PhD programs, so hopefully I'll be back in school come this fall.
Q: That's very interesting. How would you say your Olin experience affected your Fulbright year and your research now at Harvard?
A: My Olin experience was integral for my Fulbright year for a number of reasons. Most obviously, the research I did in the UK was a continuation of the work I completed as an undergrad during my OSS and over summers. Beyond that, I wouldn't say any particular class but more how I was encouraged to learn in my classes at Olin has allowed me to do the work I do now. During my Fulbright year I was given a tremendous amount of independence. I was told to set the schedule and come up with the experiments, and I think my ability to do those things effectively is a result of the project-based learning environment I experienced at Olin.
Q: It sounds like Olin was the perfect place for you. Do you have any advice for current Oliners?
A: I guess my advice would be, it's your education - get what you want out of it. These are four years where you get to study anything you want and make Olin the place you want it to be, so make up your own courses, do independent projects you're passionate about, share your ideas with others, travel and adventure and make the community more awesome! Hurray! Also, apply for the Fulbright! It's a great time.