ECU’s Mariah Mook wins research competition

Mariah Mook, a senior mechanical engineering student at East Carolina University, won the undergraduate collegiate research competition at a regional conference of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) in Raleigh earlier this year.

Mook won for a presentation on reinforcement learning for a model-based insulin pump. She said though pumps may be convenient, they could lead to an increase in insulin resistance as patients age.

Mariah Mook, right, won the undergraduate research competition during the Society of Women Engineers regional conference earlier this year. (Submitted photo)

“What we’re trying to do is minimize the amount of insulin that is put into your body, the minimal amount that is required so you can function in a healthy way, because over time you’re going to need more and more insulin to maintain daily functions,” Mook said. “If you minimize it early — because type I diabetics are always on insulin for the rest of their lives — that will slow that resistance in the aging process.”

Not only did the competition include a research poster, but also an oral presentation in front of judges.

“It was really nerve-racking because I was presenting something that wasn’t necessarily up my alley, and the other topics were so amazing,” Mook said. “They were so good. But it really helped that my whole SWE chapter came and watched, which was really nice to have a group of girls support you. My faculty advisor was there too, Dr. Jinkun Lee. He really helped me a lot with this presentation. It was really nice having that support group because oral presentations are always nerve-racking.”

Mook said her victory came as a surprise, especially considering the competition.

“I did not expect it at all,” she said. “When they didn’t call my name for third or second, I thought, ‘there’s no way.’ I was in complete shock. Even after I got the award, it hadn’t set in.”

Beyond the competition, Mook said she got a lot from attending the two-day conference that took place in February.

“We had nine girls attend from our chapter,” she said. “We had a lot of different sessions. We went to a lot of networking sessions. We met with different universities. There were disciplinary panels we could attend. It wasn’t necessarily a research conference. It’s more personal development and leadership skills and ways to build our chapter. It was really nice.”

Mook, who is from Raleigh, has worked with Natalie Bell on the project. Bell, along with Lee, placed third for a paper on a similar topic at a national conference last year.

Mook credited Lee, Bell, the support of SWE and SWE faculty advisor Dr. Colleen Janeiro for her accomplishment.