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DREEM Grant and UMD Partnership has CSM Alum Kyle Nielsen Dreaming Big About His Future in Microelectronics

July 2, 2024
Kyle Nielsen presents his research on microelectronic sensors that can digitally monitor living cells.

“Kyle’s achievements are extraordinary for any student, but particularly for a second-year community college student.”

At the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) commencement ceremonies, graduates are often encouraged to dream big. But for one recent graduate, the path to success has involved dreaming tiny – specifically, on the cellular level.

Kyle Nielsen, who graduated from CSM this spring with an associate degree in Electrical Engineering, got a head start on his future while still at CSM by working with engineers at the University of Maryland (UMD), College Park on microelectronic sensors that can digitally monitor living cells. The sensors can be used to monitor cells’ reaction to stimulus, their growth and movement, and detect if they die.

Nielsen’s research was completed as part of the Democratizing Research and Experiential Education for Microelectronics (DREEM), a three-year, $325,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant that provides project-based, experiential learning opportunities to sophomore community college students. CSM partnered with Montgomery County Community College and the UMD for the grant.

“I always envision how my skills can impact peoples’ lives and make them better,” he explained, sharing that one example of how the sensor might be used is to efficiently test how cells react to new chemotherapy treatments.

“Kyle’s achievements are extraordinary for any student, but particularly for a second-year community college student,” said Associate Professor of Engineering and Computer Science Brian Warnecke, CSM’s principal investigator for the DREEM grant. “His success in the Electrical Engineering program at CSM highlights the profound opportunities available to our students, setting a high standard and demonstrating significant potential for academic and professional growth."

As part of the program, the grant participants spent the spring 2024 semester working on a piece of bigger research projects and became experts on their topics. Nielsen, whose project was titled “Cell Capacitance Sensor,” was joined by other CSM students in the program, including: Michael Douglas, who worked on ‘Neural Networks;’ Eli Gerstman, who worked with UMD MATRIX Lab Visiting Robotics Engineer Dr. Wei-Kuo Yen on ‘Bend Sensing of a Flexible Segment for Robotic Fish;’ Keith Davenport, who worked on with UMD MATRIX Lab Assistant Research Scientist Dr. Justin Stine on ‘Integration of pH Sensing into an Ingestible Capsule Prototype;’ and Ryuta Griffith, who worked on ‘Analog Computing Circuits for Sensor Fusion Applications.’

Nielsen, his CSM cohort, and his mentors recently presented their work at UMD’s Undergraduate Research Day and they are currently preparing papers on their research to present at the Midwest Symposium on Circuits and Systems conference in August.

Nielsen will be heading to the University of Maryland this fall to continue his education and research in Electrical Engineering with a focus in Electro-physics after being awarded a Department of Defense Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship.

The SMART Scholarship-for-Service Program is a comprehensive initiative offering students full tuition for up to five years, mentorship, summer internships, a stipend and guaranteed post-graduate employment with the Department of Defense. This unique opportunity opens doors to more than 100 cutting-edge laboratories across various branches of the Department of Defense, providing scholars hands-on experience in their field. During their summer internships, scholars are paired with experienced mentors to enhance their technical expertise. Upon completing his studies, Nielsen will work full-time at Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Patuxent River, MD.

Neilsen said that the education he received at CSM, as well as the support and guidance of professors like Warnecke, has helped to push him to achieve at levels higher than he had ever dreamed possible.

“I came to CSM to save money, and I have loved being here and have learned so many skills,” Nielsen said. “I fully owe DREEM for this opportunity and couldn't be happier with how things have turned out.”

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