I am currently enrolled at the Georgia Institute of Technology pursuing a PhD in mechanical engineering specializing in fluid mechanics. I am a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and minors in bioengineering and mathematics. It was always my dream to grow up to become a doctor, but after taking AP Physics my senior year in high school, I discovered that my true passion involves technology, engineering, and mathematics.

I discovered my interest for medical technology my freshman year while I was writing my freshman conference paper on Intuitive Surgical's da Vinci Surgical System which is the most popular medical robot used in robot assisted surgeries today. I got the chance to shadow gallbladder removals performed with the robot and also got to speak with the surgeons and nurses using the machine as well as engineers who worked for the company that created it.

My passion for research came about while working with two professors at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Paolo Zunino and Dr. Riccardo Gottardi, developing microfluidic bioreactors used to test drugs used to treat osteoarthritis. I was responsible for developing models of differing flow paths of the bioreactor in SolidWorks which I subsequently tested in ANSYS Fluid Flow (CFX) in order to observe the behavior of the fluid flowing through the model. It was my goal to determine how altering the design affected the resulting fluid flow through the tissue sample. The drug exposure to the cells should be maximized which is accomplished by maximizing the velocity of the flow through the central chamber. For more information on my research, refer to the Bioreactor Research section of my webpage.

My senior year, I had the opportunity to work on a self-lead and interdisciplinary senior design project titled Foldie - The Laundry Folding Robot. Even though our scope was much larger than any other senior design project while our budget was much smaller, we won three awards for our robot: best presentation, 2nd overall in mechanical engineering and materials science, and 2nd overall in electrical and computer engineering. Our drive and hard work lead the professor of senior design, Dr. Schmidt, to ask our group to become UTAs where we created learning tools, lesson plans, and helped to make MEMS senior design an all around better experience. We also acted as the project sponsors for a future groups that continued to work on Foldie.

After graduating from Pitt, I decided to further my education by enrolling in graduate school at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Upon arrival, I began working with Dr. Ari Glezer on a project funded by Boeing. The project is responsible for studying crosswind nacelle separation.

Derek Nichols
(814) 207-3639
Atlanta, GA 30332