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Dances With Engineers

It is early March and An Chi (Danielle) Tsou '04 of Valatie, New York, is absorbed in the problems of air pollution for her senior Engineering Design Clinic. One day she's leading a design team working on a pilot tool to assess and improve energy efficiency for GE Plastics buildings and facilities in western Massachusetts. The next day she's on a morning cross-country flight to the University of California at Berkeley where she might want to study biomedical engineering.

Her final months at Smith, like those of her classmates, orbit around completing coursework and the senior design project, considering graduate schools and anticipating summer travel plans. Although she recently learned that she is the recipient of a prestigious National Science Foundation fellowship to pursue graduate studies in engineering, Tsou is still deciding whether to start working on a Ph.D. right away or defer graduate school admission and travel for a year.

Growing up, Tsou thought she would follow in the footsteps of her father, a physician, but that changed when she realized she enjoyed problem solving and design, "which is really a good bulk of what engineers do," she says. "I have always wanted to use my career to be able to directly help people and have always been interested in the field of medicine…[Biomedical engineering] is a perfect combination for me. I can use my work in engineering research and apply it to the medical field."

That she could also take dance classes while she studied engineering is a measure of how unique her education at Smith has been. In addition to taking classes in modern and Afro-Brazilian dance, she also found dance incorporated into a continuum mechanics class taught by Glenn Ellis, Ford Motor Visiting Professor of Engineering Education. "Professor Ellis has a unique way of teaching his students," she recalls. "How often does a professor have all his students dance and spin around the room in order to better learn concepts like inertia and motion? It was so much fun!"

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