Student Named to National Science Foundation Funded Fellowship Program
Student Named to National Science Foundation Funded Fellowship Program

by Jackie Hennessey
UNH Today Contributing Writer

The word busy doesn’t begin to describe the whirl that is Daniel Delgado’s life. The junior civil engineering major did a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship to examine ways to improve railcar propulsion – under the mentorship of Nikodem Poplawski, theoretical physicist, senior lecturer and UNH physics coordinator, who was named by Forbes magazine as one of five scientists in the world most likely to become the next Albert Einstein.

He also is a peer mentor for the University’s Entrepreneurial Engineering Living-Learning Community (LLC). He’s worked with faculty to develop initiatives to integrate the themes of innovation and entrepreneurship into the engineering curriculum and the LLCs by planning monthly discussion dinners, challenges and campus events. Recently he teamed up with three other engineering majors to start a new student organization called EMpwr (Entrepreneurial Mindset Power) and serves as the chapter president.

Daniel Delgado '17

Even on those nights when he sleeps just four or five hours, he doesn’t mind. “There are so many things I want to do,” he said.

Now, life has grown even busier for Delgado, as he has been named a University Innovation Fellow in the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation Fellowship program. Funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Stanford University and VentureWell, the program provides a platform for fellows to be strategic thinkers and to examine the landscape of learning opportunities at their schools and develop action plans to turn those ideas into realities. 

Delgado is the second UNH student in the last three years to be named to the prestigious fellowship. “We are extremely proud of Dan,” said Ron Harichandran, dean of the Tagliatela College of Engineering. “It’s an incredible honor to be named a University Innovation Fellow.” 

Maria-Isabel Carnasciali, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, mentored Delgado throughout the process, which required him to complete six different modules or tasks. He collaborated with other candidates, university students from around the globe, via video conference. He formalized his plans to develop a new innovation and entrepreneurship LLC for second-year students in the TCoE and the College of Business, and he created a two-minute video pitch about how this new program would impact the University.

“The fellowship program really prepares students to be leaders and change agents,” said Carnasciali. “Student-led initiatives have incredible power. They often involve the entire University, not just one college or program. The initiatives receive the backing of faculty and administration and excite donors and alums. I deeply believe in the potential of our students to contribute to our community and our society.”

Carnasciali called coaching UNH’s fellows through the training and planning “a perk of my job as a faculty member that is truly motivational and engaging.”

The idea for a new LLC first came to Delgado when he was in class. “I was thinking about how much I loved being part of the engineering LLC my first year,” he said. “I met my best friend there, I was part of so many engineering challenges and I collaborated with students. Then, after that first year, it’s over, and you’re out in the larger community. I wanted to expand on the concept.”

He jotted his ideas down on a scrap of paper and dashed off after class to find Carnasciali to run it by her. He requested a meeting to discuss the idea with key stakeholders, including deans, professors and representatives from admissions and residential life.

“Everyone was extremely supportive of the idea,” Delgado said. While logistics need to be worked out, Delgado envisioned a program in which business and engineering students collaborate to create, develop and market innovations “that will in some way benefit the University,” he said.  

Jean Nocito-Gobel, professor of civil engineering, said that she has no doubt Delgado will succeed in his latest endeavor and that the University will benefit.

“It's amazing to watch how Dan's mindset is evolving to think in a more entrepreneurial way,” she said. “The Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network’s tagline is ‘Engineering Unleashed!’ The experiences Dan has had participating in KEEN-supported activities and his involvement as peer assistant for the Entrepreneurial Engineering LLC has unleashed his potential as a leader and innovator.”

Delgado calls the fellowship an “extraordinary opportunity.” He recently traveled to Stanford to attend a training event and take part in seminars, collaborate and network with other fellows and entrepreneurs at work in a variety of fields. He also toured Google headquarters and other San Francisco-area sites. 

All of it, he said, will help him move toward a goal he’s had since he was a little boy: working for the railroad. He plans to pursue his professional engineering license and to one day work for MetroNorth Railroad's New Haven division. His goal is to bring railroad infrastructure into the 21st century using his engineering education, innovative mindset and entrepreneurship skills.
“The electric railcars on the New Haven Line always fascinated me,” he said. “As a child, I always wondered how they worked. As I grew older, I learned how complicated the railroad is and began to dig deep into research.”

One day, when he was waiting on a train platform, he fell into a conversation with a railroad engineer. “He pointed out all of the mechanical elements in the trains and spoke a lot about his experience with the railroad,” he said. “He encouraged me to work hard to achieve my engineering degree and said that all the work will be worth it. I’ll never forget him and how right he was.”

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