By Hanna Grimm
Duke Graduate School Communications Intern

Hadiya HarriganHadiya Harrigan

Ph.D. Student in Mechanical Engineering
Fall 2018 Cohort

Tell me a little about what brought you to Duke.

One of my personal goals was to pursue a Ph.D., but I wasn’t sure exactly what within mechanical engineering I wanted to study or what school I wanted to attend. Therefore, I researched various schools and mechanical engineering programs; Duke was one of the schools that I decided to apply to. I was interested in what the professors were doing, specifically my adviser, Dr. Aquino. I was excited to learn more about computational mechanics, data-driven modeling, and inverse problems.

How has the Sloan Scholarship helped you?

One of the main reasons I liked the Sloan Scholarship—although I didn’t get to take full advantage of this resource—was the Early Start program. When I was transitioning from high school to undergrad, I was a part of an undergraduate early-start program at Tuskegee University. This program was beneficial because I got to know a few people before school started, take some classes, and get acclimated to Tuskegee. I liked that the Sloan Scholarship has a somewhat similar program. I wasn’t able to go because I had an internship already lined up, but I did get to participate in some events virtually. It was nice to get some tips and tricks on how to do well in graduate school. There were a lot of awesome opportunities from attending those seminars online.

Tell me about your research.

My research is related to physics-based modeling and machine learning. Over the summer, I completed a small project as an introduction to using machine learning for sound identification. When I formally start my research, I’ll use machine learning with ultrasound scans to diagnose patients’ vascular health as healthy or unhealthy. Physics-based modeling will provide more in-depth understanding of the machine learning model parameters.

What are some significant experiences you had as a result of the program?

Every semester we meet with the Graduate Sloan Intern in small groups to support and uplift one another. Additionally, The Graduate School hosts plenty of events for us. We have various lunches where different speakers talk to us about their graduate experience and give us advice. Those events have made my experience as a graduate student better.

What do you like about Duke so far?

On campus, my favorite thing is all the study areas. For example, The Edge is awesome; there are white boards and study rooms everywhere. The whole campus is very conducive to studying.

What are some challenges you’ve encountered and how have you overcome them?

My biggest challenge right now is classes. I found it hard to transition from undergrad to graduate classes. For example, I didn’t take linear algebra in undergrad and now that I’m in a computational mechanics lab, linear algebra is very important. It was difficult to come in without that background. To overcome this challenge, I went to Math Help Room regularly, formed study groups, and talked to students with more Linear Algebra experience.

Additionally, Sloan has been a great resource, and I’m a part of a newer group called Sisters in STEM. Dean [Jacqueline] Looney in The Graduate School is one of the program leaders, and we get together once a month for conversation. We talk about struggles we are having in graduate school and outside of graduate school, including finding work-life balance.