The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Bridget Benner Joins Panel on Promoting Women in Science

Bridget Benner

Bridget Benner

Bridget Benner, a doctoral student in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department and an alumna of Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC), joined other panelists from the National Institute of Health and Massachusetts General Hospital for a panel discussion on career pathways in STEM on November 19. The event was part of BHCC's second annual Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Day, and the topic of the discussion was “Promoting Women in Science.”

As Benner said about the LSAMP discussion, “I was very excited to participate on this panel to share my experience as a community college alumna and current Ph.D. student. The continued support I receive from the BHCC community is incredible, and I am happy to have had the opportunity to give back to a program that has contributed so greatly to my own success. Promoting women in science is something I am very passionate about, and I hope that my message inspires students to dream big and persevere.” 

Benner, who studied engineering at BHCC, is currently in her third year of a Ph.D. program at UMass Amherst. While still a student at BHCC, she participated in the wind energy REU at UMass Amherst, where she then transferred to complete her B.S. degree.

Last spring, she was awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). Working in the UMass MIE department Fluid-Structure Interactions Lab, Benner is studying the fundamentals of flow-induced dynamic instabilities (vibrations) of vertical-axis wind turbine blades.

As Benner’s adviser and the head of that laboratory, MIE Professor Yahya Modarres-Sadeghi, said about Benner when she received the GRFP fellowship last May, “Bridget started her Ph.D. studies in my lab in September 2019, and she has been very productive already, with one published journal paper and two more ready to be submitted. Her Ph.D. work is on a project on fluid-structure interaction of vertical-axis wind turbines.”

Modarres-Sadeghi went on to explain that vertical-axis wind turbines have been considered recently as a viable option for future offshore wind energy. He said that one of the major challenges for making vertical-axis turbines feasible is lessening their flow-induced instabilities as they become larger and more flexible. This is the topic of Benner’s Ph.D. work.

“Bridget has all the necessary qualifications for a successful career as a Ph.D. student and a future in academia, with a very strong background and successful research experience,” said Modarres-Sadeghi. “Not only is Bridget an exceptional student, but also a passionate mentor. She has recruited some undergraduate students to the lab already and has worked with them on their independent study projects.”

While at UMass, Benner has also received the Edwin V. Sisson Doctoral Fellowship and the Kenneth A. Lloyd Fellowship for graduate students in engineering. She is co-chair of the UMass outreach committee for Graduate Women in STEM, a member of the MIE Graduate Leadership Council, a member of the College of Engineering Dean's Advisory Group, a Spaulding-Smith Fellow, and a Wind Energy Fellow. (December 2020)