NSBE senior spotlight: Karen Elisha-Wigwe

Karen (Car-en) Elisha-Wigwe is a senior in Mechanical Engineering at Miami University. She is from Nigeria and is currently involved with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), The Grand Challenges Scholars Program, Fencing, Broomball, and is a Resident Assistant.

Elisha-Wigwe started out working with Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymers (CFRPs), which are plastics that rely on the carbon fibers to provide the strength and stiffness while the polymer provides a cohesive matrix to protect and hold the fibers together. These composites have massive applications in the automotive, aerospace industries, and beyond.

Her research on CFRPs consists of varying the composition of materials and then studying their properties through molecular dynamic simulations, i.e. making models of the CFRPs on the computer and running simulations, documenting it, and comparing results.


At the moment, she is doing something very similar where, instead of models of CFRPs, she has nano-scale, self-propellant swimmers that could potentially be used for drug delivery, energy storage, etc. She is using these swimmers and changing their properties to see how they react.

One of the biggest challenges she faced in her research is doing it alongside her workload for school. Senior year can be taxing with the additional thinking about graduating and what the future might look like, so the addition of challenging classes and projects can feel daunting when paired with her research and life outside of school. She says that she wishes she had more time to produce more, but there isn’t much time to do so.

When Elisha-Wigwe first heard from Miss Keisha Norris about Dr. Zanjani’s search for undergraduate students, she reached out to him out of curiosity. The opportunity seemed intriguing, given that the bulk of the engineering applications that she had been previously exposed to was in manufacturing, so she jumped at the opportunity to work with Zanjani. He talked to her about coding, using software she knew nothing about, simulations, polymers, and CFRPs, which are subjects she was interested in.

“My original plan was to work on his team just for the summer of 2021 and move on to a different area when fall began, but once I started, I saw no reason to stop. I enjoy the work a lot.” Elisha-Wigwe said.

Short-term, Elisha-Wigwe plans to get her Masters from Miami. She hopes to be able to get an internship and get a feel for what it will be like as an engineer working in a fast-paced industry in a real world setting. 

Written by Gabby Benedict, CEC Reporter