Mylar Project

Leah Tesfa


Engineering and Applied Sciences


Class of 1965 Term Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics

Project Summary

Over the summer I was working in the Bargatin Lab, making lightweight and robust Mylar structures for light-driven levitation. Coming into this summer, I had a number of different career paths that I was considering to pursue, and I was going to use this opportunity to figure out whether research was the right fit for me. Looking back, having just recently finished my ten week program, I can say without a doubt that I have become more fond and have gained such a greater understanding and appreciation of research now than when I came in. 
Being an engineer, the novelty and unguided nature of research was very fascinating to me. The idea of embarking on something that had never been done before-- where creativity and constant research become the backbone of your journey, was very exhilarating and made research feel like a thrilling ride!

During my time doing research over the summer, I learnt many lessons, two of which I believe I will carry with me even outside of research. First being, research requires a lot of patience and you have to be okay with not getting the solution on the first try. Research takes a lot of trial and error, and you need to remember to be patient with the process. The second lesson would be: Failure is also a result. I remember some weeks where, no matter how hard I tried, my experiments would all fail and I remember feeling frustrated that I was doing something wrong and that I had wasted an entire week, but later I realized that it was those results that helped me refine my final product. I realized that I didn’t need to regard ‘failed experiments’ as a loss of time but actually as pointers of what not to do, and almost regard them as blinkers that could guide me to my final intended destination!

Not only was my research experience great, but my time in the Bargatin lab itself was fantastic too-- from the welcoming and interactive nature of the lab members to the regular feedback and mentorship I received throughout my program-- making my research experience even greater. I thoroughly enjoyed my research journey over the summer, and I would like to thank PURM for funding and giving me such a rewarding opportunity. Due to my positive experience with research, I applied to the Rachleff Scholars Program and will officially be pursuing research next summer as a Rachleff Scholar! 

To see my poster, visit Penn Presents: