In addition, the Bluffton senior received a $5,000 scholarship as one of only 17 students
chosen for the experience from a nationwide applicant pool of 122.
Dibia, from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, worked with Dr. Stephen Harnish, professor and
chair of mathematics at Bluffton, on a project involving molecular dynamics simulations
and the Ohio Supercomputer Center in Columbus. Specifically, she wrote computer programs
for simulations of sound-wave vibrations in various solids, such as iron or copper.
Objects have their own distinct vibrations, explains Harnish, Dibia s mentor in the
research. The idea is to better understand how they behave at different temperatures
and pressures and when they're struck, whether by a hammer or, when the objects are
buildings, by an earthquake. In the latter case, tracking vibrations to see what kind
of sway buildings take on in an earthquake could be useful information, he says.
"I was interested in the research because it involves physics and math, which are
my major and minor, respectively, and also computer programming, which I really enjoy,"
says Dibia, whose internship was through the National Computational Science Institute.
"In addition, I wanted to gain experience in research for grad school and possibly
my future career."
Harnish was aware of her graduate-school goal, as well as her motivation, intellectual
curiosity, persistence and excellent math skills. "That blend looked just right to
me for success with the project," he adds.
Dibia made a poster presentation at an international supercomputing conference in
Seattle. Her work culminated with her report in the Journal of Computational Science
Education in May 2012.
After graduation, she planned to pursue graduate studies in electrical engineering
specifically "because I want to work on electric cars," says Dibia, an engineering
major at Adama University in Ethiopia before coming to Bluffton.
Considering climate change and global oil issues, she adds, electric-powered cars
are the next sensible thing to do, because we need another option.
"I have completed the internship at the end of last May. I am now currently doing
a summer internship at The Ohio State University in Center for Automotive Research
(CAR). I am looking to get into the PhD program in OSU's Electrical and Computer Engineering