URI student with dreams of being rocket scientist headed to grad school at MIT

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Narragansett resident to graduate from URI May 23

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 10, 2010 — When Narragansett native Sheida Danesh enrolled at the University of Rhode Island to study engineering, she had no idea what she was getting into.

She liked math in high school, and someone suggested she try engineering in college, but she never imagined that she would end up being accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for graduate school. With her graduation from URI on the horizon, Danesh is poised for her dream career as a rocket scientist or robotics engineer.

“Going into it, I didn’t know much about engineering, but now I really like the innovation involved with engineering, the creativity it offers, and the fact that there’s a lot of analytical thinking involved,” said Danesh, an accomplished violinist who grew up speaking both English and Farsi.

With a little international travel under her belt before enrolling at URI, she took on the challenge of the University’s International Engineering Program, which required her to learn another language – she picked German – and spend a year abroad.

That year in Germany was the best year of my life,” she said with enthusiasm. “Learning the language was a challenge every day, especially since I was awful at French in high school, but the traveling was amazing and my internship was really good.”

Danesh spent six months studying at the Technical University of Braunschweig and conducting research at the Productions Metrology Institute. “I was an unpaid research assistant,” she said. “They were using acoustics as a means for measuring, and I wrote a new computer program to help them acquire the data they needed.”

Later she interned at Hexagon Metrology in Wetzlar – a company she had worked for in Rhode Island previously — where she designed equipment, built a temperature sensor, updated an optical device, and came up with ideas for a brand new machine.

“They were so open to me and my ideas, it really made me open up and want to talk,” Danesh said.

At the beginning of her year abroad, she struggled to speak German and was pleased that there were several other URI students she could speak with in English. But during her internship she spoke German exclusively.

“You make mistakes and people correct you and you learn gradually,” she recalled. “You learn it’s OK to make mistakes. And the people I worked with were very helpful and even drew pictures sometimes to help me. In the end, some of the engineering terms I learned made more sense in German than they did in English.”

Danesh called her acceptance to MIT a wonderful surprise, and she is looking forward to studying something related to robotics and vibrations.

“I like the physics behind mechanical vibrations, and the math in it makes sense to me,” she explained. “Car engines vibrate, but the driver doesn’t vibrate because of the engineering to mitigate it. Vibrations are everywhere, and sometimes you want vibrations, like when a dump truck is trying to empty out all of its contents.”

Looking ahead to her future career, Danesh said she has “a world of options. If I find that I really like research, then maybe I would try to get a Ph.D. If not, maybe I’ll try to get into a training program at a company in Germany, or maybe stay around Rhode Island at Hexagon or Electric Boat or NUWC.

“My main goal since I was a kid is to work at NASA,” she added. “There’s vibrations and design engineering there, too. I always wanted to be a rocket scientist or get into robotics. I’d like to work on the next Mars Lander or a space exploring robot”. Given Danesh’s success at URI, anything is possible.