Hi, I'm Vanessa. I'm a fashion-designer-turned-engineer working to make our clothing smarter through materials science. Specifically I research robotic textiles: fabrics that sense the wearer and their surrounding environment and respond accordingly.
Robotic textiles enable garment-based tech for people of all abilities, while still being like everyday clothing.
To conduct my research, I'm pursuing my PhD in Materials Science & Engineering at Harvard SEAS. Here I'm part of Prof. Conor Walsh's Biodesign Lab and Prof. George Whitesides' Research Group, both in the Wyss Institute. I am supported by the DoD NDSEG Fellowship and the GEM Fellowship to undertake my studies.
Like I said, I didn't start out as an engineer. I began school at The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) for fashion design and graduated with a BS from the Fiber Science program at Cornell University in 2016. Then I wanted to go even deeper into materials, which led me to Harvard. My unique background enables me to understand garments from the clothing system level to the textile structure to the underlying materials chemistry.
I've seen first hand how developing smart clothing facilitates the intersection of design and engineering. It's what got me interested in STEM. This multidisciplinary work sparks creative technical solutions and is a great platform for project-based teaching. I share my passion for engineering+design education as an Open Style Lab summer program team member where student teams develop adaptive wear.