Profiles: Current LEAP Students and Recent Graduates
- James James received his BS in Biochemistry from the University of Massachusetts Boston. During a junior year internship at a local biomedical engineering research company, he worked on a rehabilitation project with elderly stroke patients. At the end of the project, seeing the impact it had on the physical and emotional wellbeing of the participants was truly gratifying. “One woman had not left her house in years for fear of falling. After the study she had the confidence to begin taking walks on her own. I will never forget the day she came into the lab and was crying with joy at what had been returned to her. That day I decided I wanted a career where I was developing technological solutions that would have an impact on improving people’s health.” James received his M.S. in 2004 and his Ph.D in Biomedical Engineering in 2007. He is now Director of Research Programs at the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry, where he also works with fellow LEAP graduate, Lauren Plavisch.
- Brooks Brooks completed his undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and was working in public relations when he decided to make the switch to engineering. Working to promote university research initiatives exposed him to the connection between the education system and technical innovation, and he was fascinated by the wide array of challenging problems that engineers could work on. After extensive research he decided to enroll in the LEAP program and pursue an M.S. in materials science and engineering, which he thought would give him the foundation for making contributions to the advancement of energy efficiency technology. Brooks is currently employed as a process development engineer in R&D for Cree, Inc, a market-leader in solid-state lighting.
- Lauren Lauren Plavisch received her BA in American Studies and Philosophy from Wellesley College. In 2006, she was living in Cambridge and had worked at a couple of software start-ups in the Boston area, but on the marketing and client management end of things. One day she was complaining to a software engineer that she wanted to work in renewable energy but would prefer to contribute on the engineering side. (She'd always had a proclivity towards science, but took only two science classes in college!) He suggested she go back to school and become an engineer. Inspired by a friend who had found an accelerated nursing program, she googled "accelerated engineering degree" and found LEAP, right in her backyard! After receiving her MS in Materials Science and Engineering, she began work at the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry, where she now works with another LEAP alumnus, Dr. James Norman, BME.
- Peter Peter received his B.A. in Physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder, in Boulder, CO in 1998, and after several years working at a financial company, he joined LEAP in 2005. He went on to receive his Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from BU in Fall 2009. He spent a year and a half as a post-doctoral fellow at Idaho National Laboratory. Currently, he is a Research Assistant Professor and Lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Division of Materials Science and Engineering at BU, where he is teaching ME306 - Materials Science and ME360 - Product Design. His research interests include leveraging modern materials science and engineering to design solutions to energy and agricultural related problems.
Cassandra Browning (B.A., M.A. in Psychology)
Cassandra Browning, a Phase II PhD LEAP student in Computer Systems Engineering, holds a Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology from Louisiana State University. Prior to joining LEAP, Cassie served as a U.S. Army Communications Officer and Tactical Communications Systems Chief for a military intelligence unit during the Persian Gulf War, and as a Mobile Communications Platoon Leader during Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti.
"I was very excited to discover this unique program at BU. Based upon my work in the Army, I wanted an advanced engineering degree, but I was not thrilled with the idea of pursuing another bachelor's degree. LEAP addressed that concern both educationally and financially. My experience with the faculty and staff associated with LEAP has been wonderful. They've been highly supportive and very positive. Most importantly, they strive to obtain and respond to LEAP student input regarding how the program is working."
In addition to her coursework, Cassie is now working as a Graduate Research Assistant for Professor Allyn Hubbard in the area of MEMS biomemetic hearing devices.
- Joseph Casey Crager (B.A. in Chemistry) Casey Crager was working as an auto mechanic when he learned about LEAP at Boston University. Having previously earned a BS in chemistry, he was attracted to engineering after a visit to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where he became fascinated by the multidisciplinary nature of applied research. After completing his MS in Electrical Engineering in May 2001, Casey decided to stay at BU and pursue his PhD. In the Laboratory for Applied Electromagnetics, Casey studied the energy emission in discharges from insulators, earning his PhD in Electrical Engineering in May 2004. He now works for GE Medical Systems as a research engineer.
Erica Thrall (B.A. in Music)
Erica received her undergraduate degree in Literature and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College. She began her college career as an engineering student, but changed majors because she perceived the engineering environment to be less than inviting to women.
That feeling changed when Erica found out about LEAP. Erica was working as an Associate Editor at WGBH, a public television station in Boston. As part of her job, she became involved in motivating children, particularly girls, to pursue studies in engineering. She found it ironic that she was promoting engineering to girls but had never earned her own engineering degree. After visiting a biomedical engineer who designs spinal implants for patients with scoliosis, she was inspired to enroll in LEAP. She recently completed her Master’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering.
Kimani Toussaint (B.S. in Physics)
Kimani C. Toussaint, Jr. graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1996 with a Bachelors of Arts degree in physics. Inspired to pursue graduate studies in photonics -- the study and manipulation of light -- he enrolled in LEAP at Boston University, where he earned an MS degree in electrical engineering. Kimani decided to continue his graduate education as was accepted into the doctoral program in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
In September 2000, Kimani received one of the very first Gates Millennium Scholars Fellowship awards. This award, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is given to minority students who have demonstrated academic excellence and community service. Kimani is now pursuing postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago in the area of super-resolution, nonlinear, optical microscopy.
- Lisa Zagura (B.A. in Education) An avid runner and soccer player who recently completed her third Boston Marathon, Lisa graduated from Providence College with a B.A. in Special/Elementary Education and minors in mathematics and studio art. As an education volunteer in the Peace Corps, she served as a secondary school teacher on Tarawa, an atoll in the Gilbert Islands. Lisa is now working on her Master's Degree in Mechanical Engineering. Her future goal is to apply her skills in developing countries, developing new project ideas based in the assessed needs, resources and beliefs of the local culture.
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