Laura Nicholson '09
Inspired by her MISTI experience, Laura dove into a D-Lab project producing a hydro-powered lantern for a village in Peru.
Mechanical Engineering Major
Mechanical engineering major Laura Nicholson seized the chance to spend a summer working in Madrid as an adventure. Little did she know that the MIT-Spain program would also inspire new career goals.
“Last year, I was concentrating in robotics. After ten weeks in Spain, a task tangential to my job had sent me in a totally new direction,” Nichols said.
The Transformative Effect of MISTI
Through MISTI, Nicholson worked on designing a system that would enable a car to detect an accident and automatically dial 911 for Telefonica, Spain’s telecom giant.
The task tangential to her job was living in Spanish 24/7, she said. “I made a conscious effort to step outside my comfort zone. I spoke Spanish all the time. I found apartments. I contacted friends of friends in the city. I’d never lived on my own before. Now you could drop me anywhere in the world, and I’d be fine,” she says.
A Passion for Spanish...
Beyond discovering her resourcefulness, Nicholson re-discovered an important part of herself through the MIT-Spain program, she said. “People in Spain complimented me on my fluency. I wrote a work paper in Spanish. All this reawakened my confidence and my curiosity: I enjoy languages and political science, and I hadn’t taken any courses in either one!” Nichols reports.
and Sustainable Development
Upon returning to MIT, she turned her focus to sustainable development. She dove into a D-Lab project that is producing a hydro-powered lantern for a village in Peru. “They can drop this lantern in a stream during the day; the water will charge it and give light at night. Our contact is a priest who speaks only Spanish, so I’m the team’s official translator.”
Nicholson's’ final project in mechanical engineering is to design ways to test the effectiveness of aerosolized vaccines, for use in developing countries. “I was stressed out a year ago. Now I’ve got a better idea of what I want to do: I’d like to use both my language and my engineering skills.”