#myRITstory – Antoinette Defoundoux

In honor of International Women’s Day (this Friday, March 8th) we’re proudly featuring the stories of #RITWomen this week. Join us Friday morning at 9 a.m. for a webinar featuring our female students and staff as they discuss RIT history, opportunities for women in STEM, and RIT’s curriculum, research, and campus life. Register today!

Antoinette Defoundoux-Fila is from the Republic of Congo in Central Africa and is passionate about helping people. She has always wanted to work in the health field, and for a long time wanted to become a medical doctor. Since starting her studies at RIT, her new passion is to work in the research and develop medical devices. She is currently pursuing her MS degree in Manufacturing and Mechanical System Integration and is avidly working on her capstone project with her adviser, Dr. O’Neil. Antoinette’s project focuses on the redesigning of jet nebulizers (medical devices that are used to treat respiratory diseases) to make it adaptable to a hand cranked compressor. This system will be used in low income countries where access to electricity can be difficult hence making an electric compressor useless. Their work involves redesigning the nebulizers to make sure that the medicine droplet size stays the same dosage when using a hand cranked compressor.

When she is not in class, Antoinette is busy with the Women in Technology (WIT) group on campus where she can give (and receive!) support from other STEM women on campus and the program leader, Nykki Mathews. This serves as a place of motivation and support for her, where she can always seek help and get advice through weekly meetings and the other resources available.

Antoinette also has a passion for helping younger women become interested in STEM fields. Her favorite RIT event is the Girls in STEM fair. During the fair, female students of all ages (kindergarten to high school) from local schools come to RIT to enjoy a day of educational activities put together by female engineering and science students and professors. Antoinette loves the event because it “shows that science and technology can be fun, but also, at the end of the day a lot of those participants want to pursue a career in engineering or science.”

Antoinette will be leaving RIT this spring, but wants others to know what a special place RIT is, especially for women. “There is a club for everybody at RIT. This diversity helps students find a sense of community and belonging in whatever club you identify with.”

.Learn more about RIT’s Manufacturing and Mechanical Systems Integration MS program here.

#myRITstory – Alyssa Recinella

In honor of International Women’s Day (this Friday, March 8th) we’re proudly featuring the stories of #RITWomen this week. Join us Friday morning at 9 a.m. for a webinar featuring our female students and staff as they discuss RIT history, opportunities for women in STEM, and RIT’s curriculum, research, and campus life. Register today!

Alyssa Recinella, PhD in Engineering

Q: When did you begin your degree program at RIT?

A: I started as a Bachelor’s student in Engineering Exploration back in 2011. I eventually picked mechanical engineering and joined the dual degree BS/MS program back in 2015. I graduated in December 2016 and began my doctoral program in January 2017.

Q: What is your expected date of graduation?

A: Currently, May 2020. But it all depends on funding! My degree may be extended by a summer or a semester. But the goal is to finish either in May 2020 or December 2020.

Q: Do you have a favorite spot on campus?

A: I have a few! I love doing homework in Java’s. I enjoy sitting by the windows in the engineering building to watch the rain or snow while I’m reading or having a conference call. Finally, I really enjoy the Fireside Lounge with a good cup of coffee and some music, especially when the fire is going.

Q: Do you have a favorite RIT event? Why?

A: Oh man, hockey!!! Who doesn’t love hockey? I grew up watching the Detroit Red Wings and I’ve loved watching the Tigers the past few years, especially in the new Polisseum!

Q: Are you involved in any clubs or groups on campus?  Do you have a special role in that group?

A: During my undergrad I was very involved in Engineers for a Sustainable World and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. I had a few different leadership roles in both clubs throughout the years. Now I’m the president of the Doctoral Student Association on campus.

Q: What do you enjoy most about RIT?

A: There’s something for everyone. Want to go into the Greek system? We have it. Want to build machines that shoot foam balls? We have it. Want to play with Legos or build fake roller coasters? We have it. Want to stay in your room and play video games while a robot brings you soda? We have it.

Q: Have you completed a Co-Op? If so, how was your experience with the process?

A: I’ve had 4 different co-ops. All of them were diverse and ranged in expectations and experience. But one main factor they all had in common = it is what you make it. If I didn’t have work to do, I made work to do. And other teams became interested and I was recognized by more people. I was in new cities with no one that I knew and ended up with long-term connections and great experiences. Go in open minded of everything! You may not enjoy the work you’re doing but that doesn’t mean you have to have a bad time. You have now learned that you don’t quite enjoy that line of work but maybe you learned some awesome software or technical skills along the way. Stay positive!

  1. Research Assistant, Machinist, DesignerThermal Analysis, Microfluidics and Fuel Cell Lab at RIT – January 2014 – August 2014
  2. Thermal Engineer – IBM – January 2015 – August 2015
  3. Thermal Engineer – Carrier Corporation – May 2017 – August 2017
  4. Oncology Intern – Rochester Regional Health – May 2018 – August 2018

Q: Why did you chose RIT?

A: So many reasons. I had a lot of criteria when choosing colleges but the top 5 most important were the following:

  1. Co-op Program (RIT’s program is just incredible and that’s a fact)
  2. Finances (scholarship, tuition costs, housing costs in the area, etc.)
  3. Distance to home (for me, not too close, not too far away)
  4. The Engineering Program (ease of transfer into other disciplines, amount of other disciplines, esteem of the program compared to other schools, hands-on curriculum, etc.)
  5. Size of the school (I was looking at schools that had 2,000 people and looking at schools that had 50,000 people; RIT was a happy medium)

Q: Do you have a Research/Thesis/Capstone project you are excited about? Can you share some details.

A: Absolutely! I’m currently studying breast cancer detection techniques. We’re studying a non-invasive, no contact, no radiation method called Infrared Imaging. Although there is controversy with the FDA around this technology, most of it is based on the fact that there isn’t a lot of scientific evidence or exploration backing the technology. So for my dissertation, we’re trying to prove that this is a valid method that should be considered through in-depth scientific exploration and clinical trials.

Q: Do you have a specific career goal? If so, what?

A: Absolutely not. I know I want to work in Research and Development somewhere but I’m completely open when it comes to the field and the organization. I’d preferably either like to work in a National Lab, in industry (like a start-up) or in a government facility (NASA or the DoD)

Q: What are you most proud of/passionate about at RIT?

A: The answer to this question has changed every year that I’ve been at RIT. At the moment, I’m immensely proud of the growing PhD programs at RIT and my involvement in the Doctoral Student Association (DSA). We’re trying to get doctoral students in all different disciplines to collaborate in multidisciplinary activities, expose our programs to more local companies and alumni, get students out of the lab for some good free food and games and finally bring more people to the downtown area to serve the Rochester community. The DSA is a brand new organization on campus and I’m so proud to see how far it’s come in the past 2 years.

Q: In your opinion, what about RIT provides a sense of community?

A: I think there are certain activities or events on campus that make everyone feel proud to be here. But the biggest aspect is what I said above: there’s something here for everyone. People feel like they belong. We don’t all necessarily belong to the same groups but all the groups belong to RIT. And when people are happy within their own spaces, they feel closer to the campus and to the community.

For more information about RIT’s Engineering PhD program, or to explore other graduate school options, review our program list here.