Summer Centered: Larkin Johnson '17 Engineers Summer Research
The physics major studied the movement of bacteria, among other things, in the Penn Complex Fluids Lab at the University of Pennsylvania.
Larkin Johnson '17 spent her summer in the Penn Complex Fluids Lab at the University of Pennsylvania this summer, studying microfluidics and the movement of bacteria through viscoelastic fluid. Thanks to funding from the Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center, she was able to work in the lab mixing fluids, taking images of the fluid and particles that move through a channel using brightfield and fluorescent microscopy, analyzing the images, and fabricating PDMS channels using molds that are made with soft lithography.
The lab is part of Penn's Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, and the physics major was thrilled to get experience in this new field. Johnson is interested in engineering because, she says, “it takes knowledge from many different fields, such as physics, math, chemistry, and biology, and applies it in a way that can better our world.”
“My goal for the future is to use engineering research to solve medical and environmental issues,” she says.
One of Johnson’s favorite parts of her summer research was the data analysis it required. Writing her own code to turn thousands of data points into readable graphs was especially rewarding. She also hopes that this research on bacteria can have a larger impact beyond the lab.
“Hopefully my work studying the movement of bacteria will help the scientific community better understand how to treat and control bacteria issues,” says Johnson, who hopes to continue this work during the upcoming school year and write her thesis on this topic.
-Jamauri Bowles ’17
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.