The Helping Hand
Jamie Ferris ’19. Mechanical Engineer, Philosopher, Runner.
The members of Jamie’s Senior Design Team needed only one word to describe the Mechanical Engineering and Philosophy double-major: powerhouse. Jamie, a native ofhe Vancouver, Washington, and daughter to two engineers, hit the ground running (literally) when she came to Santa Clara University on a Presidential Scholarship. In addition to training six days a week for the track and cross country teams, Jamie got involved with the BioDesign and Innovation Lab. Partnering with the India-based Jaipur Foot Foundation, Jamie and other students from engineering, biology, and public health designed a prosthetic hand to be produced and distributed for free in India. In September 2019, she began working toward her Ph.D. at Michigan, focusing on the use of wearable sensors to evaluate movement and give feedback to the user.
Why I Chose SCU.
I wanted to go to a moderately small university, somewhere close to home in the Pacific Northwest, with a similar laidback, outdoorsy culture and lifestyle. And somewhere with a great engineering program. Santa Clara checked all three boxes. Plus, while many engineering schools expect you to live and breathe it, Santa Clara allows for diversity in what you pursue and I was able to explore other academic interests like philosophy while I got my engineering degree and competed in a Div. I sport. And of course, the campus is really, really beautiful. That never hurts.
What Makes SCU’s School of Engineering Unique.
Santa Clara’s relatively high ratio of female faculty in its mechanical engineering department indicated to me that there are a lot of opportunities for women in STEM here. As a woman, I know that having other women in the department increases the likelihood of me having equal opportunities to access labs, projects, and experiments. Professors here really care about their students. If you reach out and indicate interest in a topic or a project, like I did with robotics or prosthetics design, you get on their radar and they connect you to lab experiences and research work.
Since high school, it’s been a goal of mine to work in prosthetics so I was really excited to be part of the first team to work on the HELP (Human-centered Electric Prosthetic) Hand. I was interested in doing something that was brand new, where I could build my own team and make the big decisions. What’s really cool about the project is we got real world experience, building a product people will actually use. We took a good step forward—the hand we built can pick up objects and it responds and moves to a shrug of the shoulder. We need further user testing but I’m proudly handing it off to the next team.
How SCU Became Home.
More than anything, you have to get involved in the many different groups and clubs and communities on campus that develop into little families. Coming to college, where you don’t have your biological family around, building families through these communities is so valuable. For me, that was running. It’s intense and requires a lot of dedication but it was worth it—to get away from schoolwork for just a bit and do something that’s just for you. Being in the Bay Area is fantastic for running, too. All we have to do is drive in any direction and we’ll find a beautiful trail.
Jamie Ferris, Mechanical Engineering and Philosophy