Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Dual-Degree Students Take Up Overseas Fellowships

By Anna Fiorentino
June 2017 • Thayer By Degrees: BE

Two engineering students — Oleksandr Kuzura and Liam Grace-Flood — have each received a $30,000 year-long Thomas J. Watson Fellowship for independent study outside the United States.

Oleksandr Kuzura
Oleksandr Kuzura

Both students are in Thayer's Dual Degree Program, in which students at other liberal arts colleges spend their junior or senior year studying engineering at Dartmouth, earn their BA from their home school, and then return to Dartmouth for the BE degree.

Kuzura, a physics major from Grinnell College, grew up in the Ukraine countryside, where he observed a particular type of engineering. There, he says, his grandfathers built most of what they needed from scratch. "In Ukraine, people without access to money, materials, or technology must make do with what they have by repurposing materials and reimagining engineering problems," Kuzura says. "'Folk engineers,' as I call them, invent ingenious fixes and workarounds."

Returning to his roots of practicing engineering with limited resources, Kuzura will travel around the globe to Thailand, Peru, India, and the Balkans this fall. "Planned obsolescence is frightening in the amount of polluting material waste it creates and the consumeristic cycle it perpetuates," he says. "I'm interested in what it takes to live with minimal technology." Kuzura, who hopes to ultimately work on electric vehicles, energy storage, or clean energy, adds, "The world needs technology to fight climate change, and I'm learning skills to make such technology.”

Liam Grace-Flood
Liam Grace-Flood displays his recent art project.

Grace-Flood, who juggles two majors and two minors at Wheaton College in addition to the Dual Degree Program, plans to use his Watson Fellowship to travel to the United Kingdom, China, Brazil, Tanzania, and Austria to understand the ethos of experiential learning and its functions.

"Collaborative multi-disciplinary creative spaces, sometimes called 'makerspaces,' can democratize access to resources to make better things, better people, and better communities," he says. 

According to Grace-Flood, Thayer’s flexibility and wealth of resources inspired him to pursue his Watson Fellowship focus. "Thayer allowed me to pursue a more eclectic and tailored academic experience than I imagined. I love working in such an opportunity and resource-rich space, full of tools, materials, and collaborators," says Grace-Flood. "Using spaces like the Machine Shop has made me more curious about how to engage and empower students who don’t have resources to get them."

A total of 40 seniors from colleges throughout the country received 2017 Watson Fellowships. "It's remarkable that two students in the same Dual-Degree class at Thayer won this prestigious award and that we are both pursuing research in fields relevant to what we did at Thayer," says Grace-Flood. Both he and Kuzura plan to return to Thayer after their Watson Fellowship year for their BE studies.

Tags: award, international, projects, students

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