ME/Music double major earns NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

ME/Music double major earns NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

For graduate students, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship is a rare thing with only 2,000 students nationwide receiving the award this year, including Lindsey Bass, a first year graduate student in mechanical engineering working in the lab of Christopher Williams, associate professor and John R. Jones III Faculty Fellow.

The NSF graduate fellowships only allow graduate students to apply once and Williams, who received an Honorable Mention for the award as a graduate student, said Bass is the first mechanical engineering student from Virginia Tech to receive the recognition since 2007.

“Lindsey’s been a phenomenal student and researcher since her undergraduate days,” Williams said. “She published her first journal article as a junior and it’s terrific to see her receive this well-deserved recognition.”

Bass is a native of Pasadena, Maryland. She graduated in 2017 as double major in mechanical engineering and music (vocal performance) and her young resume is a rarity, bringing together a classically trained singer with a mechanical engineer currently researching the additive manufacturing of individual human hearts for use by surgeons as pre- and post-surgery aids.

“Part of the reason I came to Virginia Tech was the flexibility of the department,” Bass said. “When I said I wanted to double major, the advisors were willing to work with me and that was great.”
It took five years to earn her degrees, but Bass spent a semester in Switzerland as part of the Presidential Global Scholars Program through the Honors College, and came back to Blacksburg with a broader cultural experience, and a desire to be involved in research.

“After my first year I received an internship from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and was really fortunate the project involved additive manufacturing,” Bass said. “As a first-year student I wasn’t expecting to jump into a cool engineering internship – I was expecting to you know, push a button and record data, but NIST allowed me to work one-on-one with an expert researcher who was invested in teaching and showing me the cool things about research and science in general. It didn’t matter that I had limited MATLAB and Labview experience – I used those skills there and fostered them.

“While I picked mechanical engineering because I liked math and science, I didn’t know at the time what I specifically wanted to do. The NIST internship in additive manufacturing was creative and I thought maybe I should explore it further. I saw a senior technical elective for a rapid prototyping additive manufacturing class that Doctor Williams taught and went to him the fall semester before my sophomore year started and asked if I could get into the class, and he said yes so I took it in the fall.”

Bass took her semester abroad in the spring and when she came back, approached Williams about doing undergraduate research in additive manufacturing. “He looked at me like I was crazy, but said yes, so I started in the summer after I returned from Switzerland,” said Bass. She has spent the rest of her undergraduate years in Williams’ lab working on a variety of additive manufacturing projects.

With the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, Bass said her goals have changed and she will now pursue a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering.

“I came into college thinking I wanted a master’s degree, but I’m so fortunate to have so many supportive people in my life and now with the NSF funding, I’m committed to earning a Ph.D. and I’ve decided I will stay at Virginia Tech.”