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University of Dayton School of Engineering Mechanical Engineering Student Kayla Pariser NSF Graduate Research Fellow

Mechanical Engineering Student Receives Prestigious Fellowship for Graduate School

By Kelly Mofield, School of Engineering

Kayla Pariser's undergraduate research in the field of computational biomechanics has earned her a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

The NSF fellowship provides three years of tuition and a $34,000 stipend, enough to cover her graduate education. Of the more than 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students who applied, she was one of 2,000 selected and among the 780 undergraduates to receive the award. She will continue her studies at the University of Delaware in the fall at one of the top biomechanics programs in the country.

One of the things that attracted her to Delaware is the fact that the biomechanics program is across the hall from the University’s physical therapy program.

Both of Pariser’s parents hold advanced degrees in physical therapy and her twin sister, Ada, a fellow May UD graduate, is entering medical school at Michigan State University in the fall. Kayla was also drawn to health care, but not direct patient care.  She plans to focus her research on improving patient outcomes through rehabilitation. 

Her work in computational biomechanics uses musculoskeletal modeling to predict muscle forces in a non-invasive way. It can be used to anticipate surgery outcomes, help orthopedic surgeons make decisions about placement and choice of implants, and guide physical therapists in choosing the best rehabilitation options for patients.

Pariser credits the mentorship of Allison Kinney, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, with giving her the confidence to pursue a career in academic research. Pariser completed her honors thesis in Kinney’s Computational Biomechanics Lab and spent a summer as a paid researcher in the lab as part of the School of Engineering’s Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE). It was Kinney who encouraged her to apply for the NSF fellowship.

“Working with Dr. Kinney over the past three years gave me the confidence to pursue a career in research,” Pariser said. “Her encouragement and mentorship plus my experience with the SURE program made all the pieces come together to go down the research route.”

“Kayla is one of our top mechanical engineering undergraduate students,” Kinney said. “It has been a pleasure working with her, and I am looking forward to seeing where her future takes her.”

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