Spotlight on Alumnae: Rachel Odessey ’17, Awarded National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship

Rachel Odessey ’17, a first-year PhD student in the electrical and computer engineering group in the School of Engineering at Brown University, has won a three-year National Defense Science and Engineering (NDSEG) Graduate Fellowship. Odessey earned her bachelor of arts in physics at Scripps.

Odessey was one of only a handful of winners of the prestigious fellowship, selected from over 3,600 applications. The NDSEG fellowship recognizes Odessey’s academic excellence and science, technology, engineering and math achievements and includes full tuition and a monthly stipend for her graduate studies at Brown. NDSEG Fellows also receive up to two trips per year for training and/or conferences that support their educational initiatives.

At Brown, Odessey is conducting research under the guidance of thesis adviser Professor Jimmy Xu in his Laboratory for Emerging Technologies. In particular, Odessey is focusing on questions that address intersections of optics, electrical engineering, materials science, and physics. Specifically, she plans to investigate the integration of polymer piezoelectric materials such as 4-N, N-dimethylamino-4′- N’- methyl stilbazolium tosylate (DAST) into optical metamaterials.

“This funding allows me to pursue research independently and devote myself to questions that fascinate me the most and advance important scientific investigations that have the possibility to benefit the human condition,” she said. “The development of tunable, scalable metamaterials would open a number of novel and potentially widely useful applications including communications, flexible, wearable sensors, and camouflaging devices. These applications could have an impact in many fields including improved health outcomes, sensing, communications, energy harvesting, and camouflaging for Department of Defense personnel.”

Odessey says her undergraduate studies at Scripps played an important role in the course of her career.

“I took a really wonderful Modern Physics class my sophomore year that first got me interested in studying light and how it interacts with the world. That class got me curious about the world around me and led me towards a physics major as well as a few internships that got me interested in light and eventually metamaterials, which are a set of materials that interact with light in some interesting ways,” she said.

The NDSEG Fellowship is sponsored and funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Army Research Office, and the Office of Naval Research under the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.