Joshua Steakelum
Joshua Steakelum earned his BS degree in computer and electrical engineering from UMass Dartmouth earlier this month.
Feature Stories 2021: Joshua Steakelum '21: Benefiting from research
Joshua Steakelum '21: Benefiting from research

Joshua talks about the value of supplementing coursework with research projects.

Joshua Steakelum began conducting undergraduate research during his first year as a student at UMass Dartmouth’s College of Engineering. Since then, he has had the opportunity to work on a variety of projects like data engineering for NASA and robotics for Harvard and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. And has delved into improving math techniques and writing journal papers with his peers at UMassD. “I’m very lucky to have been close with professors and colleagues that gave me all sorts of new perspectives on how to look at different types of engineering problems,” said Joshua who earned his bachelor’s degree in computer and electrical engineering earlier this month. “My coursework over the years introduced me to many colleagues I now call friends.”

Joshua called his experience working with faculty nothing short of great. During the summer of 2019, he worked alongside Dr. Lance Fiondella on a reliability engineering research project creating and combining types of optimization algorithms. It involved creating a genetic algorithm, which allows a computer to design and decide which algorithms would be best for a given problem, anywhere from fitting curves to training AI networks. “There hasn’t been more need than now for this sort of problem-solving, with AI being everywhere nowadays. Researchers like to show off new problem-solving methods but no one’s really stood back and compared what we already have,” he said.

Outside of the UMassD campus setting, Joshua also worked with Brigham and Women’s Hospital alongside researchers at Harvard Medical where he focused on bridging the gap between the electro-mechanics of robotics with bioengineering, implementing computer-aided methods to apply such robotics to surgical and medical procedures.

When asked about the benefits of heavily engaging in research as an undergraduate student, Joshua said, “Working on research projects also provided me with a head-start on some of my coursework. A lot of the research material I found also surfaced as part of the work professors assigned. I didn’t know at the time but these outside projects gave me a great foundation which really helped in a lot of my tougher courses.”