Engineering student tackles research, earns scholarship
Brett Larsen’s parents knew he was different back in high school, that his math and science talents were quickly outpacing the offerings at Tri-City Christian Academy in Chandler. So they signed Larsen up for classes at the nearby community college.
They were right.
Larsen, who will be a senior in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, one of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, recently was awarded a Goldwater Scholarship, the nation’s premier award for undergraduates studying science, math and engineering. The scholarship provides $7,500 a year for up to two years.
Larsen, an electrical engineering and physics major, did research at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, this summer, and spent last summer at Sandia National Labs in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
A student in ASU’s Barrett, The Honors College, Larsen started researching in ASU’s Flexible Display Center as a freshman, developing ultra low-power circuits and applying advanced signal processing techniques to personnel detection around secure areas. Since that time, his research has also expanded to other areas of applied mathematics, such as identifying proteins passing through silicon nanopores and analyzing measurements taken with an electric field sensor.
“With a seismic or electric field sensor, you want to be able to tell the difference between a person and an animal,” Larsen said. “Beyond that, you want the software to analyze data to find features like how far apart the footsteps are, what the gait pattern is, how strong the footsteps are, and anything else you can see in the data.”
The ultimate goal: sensors on flexible materials that can meet a variety of form factors for different products.
Beyond research, Larsen has found a variety of other opportunities at ASU. As a sophomore, he worked as engineering peer mentor in the honors dorms, helping students through the challenges of freshmen year and connecting them to resources on campus. Through Science Detectives, a student-run outreach group, he currently leads a science club at a local elementary school. And as a long-time member of the Barrett Choir, he enjoys the opportunity to sing with other students on campus and in the community.
Larsen, who already has presented research papers at national conferences, hopes to earn a Ph.D. in physics, conduct research in mathematical modeling for national security applications, and teach at a major university.
Judy Nichols, [email protected]
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering