Emily Briere

Emily Briere
Duke University
Durham, North Carolina
Mechanical Engineering
Principal Investigators: Dr. Jeremy Frank and Adam Sweet


Like so many others, I’ve dreamed of being in space since I was young. My mom tells me stories of hopping from couch cushion to cushion as a kid, wearing self-constructed astronaut suit gear, defying the “gravity” of deep space. “Houston, we have a problem. Oxygen flow obstructed by… a Cheerio?” Not all oxygen tanks are crafted of a curly straw and an aluminum-foil-covered cereal box, but the equipment apparently was judged to be quite reliable and aerodynamic as I used it often. As I grew up, the topics got deeper and more challenging than navigating around couch cushions. In school, we had learned that space was “infinite” …something that I am still trying to get my mind around. I don’t think we will want for interesting things to talk about this summer!

I was born June 28th, 1993, in Newark, New Jersey along with my twin brother, Nick. My mom calls me her miracle baby because she was expecting twin boys – it seems Nick was a camera-hog during ultrasounds and they kept counting him twice. We soon moved to Mansfield, Connecticut, a small town with only officially a post office and general store, where I have grown up my whole life. Four years later brought two new sibling twins, Chris and Maddie. Being in a family with two sets of twins, we get all sorts of weird questions. I’ll answer the most likely ones of yours now:

“No, we cannot sense if our respective twins are in danger.”

“Yes, we did speak our own language like those twins in the YouTube video.”

“No, we are not identical.” (we are different sexes, doh!)

“No, we don’t have telepathy like those kids in Escape from Witch Mountain.”

My parents, Danny and Holly, are two of the coolest people I know, and have supported all of us kids through our variety of paths. My dad is an entrepreneur, and my mom is a neuroscientist – this means after-school invention convention with Dad, and weekend science fair projects with Mom. It is no surprise then that today my guiding passion is a fusion of entrepreneurship and science: engineering. I’ve always had an energetic and curious spirit. Like many other engineers, I ask a lot of questions. When I get an answer I don’t like, I try to change it. In some of my most recent summer work, I extended my engineering passion and found a love for scientific research in its potential to explore the known, discover the unknown, and produce tangible change.

Education, Engagement, and Experience:

I have represented various flavors of innovation, as I co-founded three companies, spent a summer working for a start-up, and am in the ideation process of a new venture. In eighth grade, I was frustrated with my town’s lack of communication, so my twin brother and I created MoxMe!, a social alerting network which allows groups to communicate in a highly personalized fashion. In high school, we expanded MoxMe! to include private collaboration, bringing teachers and students together in one place. MoxMe!, saved my school enough money to open a new teaching position, and significantly improved communication in my town. Desiring to promote a love for learning Latin, we next founded Certamen.com, an academic gaming site specifically focused on the Classical languages (coming online this Fall). In order to fund these two ventures, my brother and I run an on-the-side video production company, Cut Out Kids. Attending Angel Investor conferences since age 15, I have learned the intricacies of marketing, networking, and professionalism, but most importantly how to attack problems in a creative way.

My focus grew more global as I grew. I spent summers volunteering in Costa Rica and Cambodia and saw needs first hand; I organized fundraising events to open a scholarship fund at my Cambodian orphanage. Through Engineering World Health I helped design and build a light-bulb adapter for third world countries where the prime cause of death during surgery is not having the correct lighting to see. Good-hearted people from around the world send donated light bulbs, but they all have different socket requirements – we solved that.

In August, 2011, I entered college as a freshman at Duke University majoring in mechanical engineering while also pursuing the aerospace certificate and a math minor. I immediately got involved in Engineering Student Government, Engineering World Health, Duke Venture Forward, and various engineering and entrepreneurship clubs and opportunities. I have spent weekends helping young girls to build electro-surgery unit testers for use in third world hospitals in an attempt to foster a greater love for engineering in the female population. My first two college years have been spent building up a strong background in mechanical engineering and physics, while this upcoming year I will begin my certificate in applying these concepts to aerospace engineering.

This past summer, I was super lucky to be able to replace a second year grad student on a CERC nuclear particle accelerator project when that person dropped from the program. In that, I conducted nuclear physics research as an NSF REU Fellow under Dr. Jones at the University of Connecticut. I was able to synthesize my love for physics with my creative drive, designing and building a calibrating robot for the tagger microscope of GlueX’s national quantum chromodynamics experiment. This robot will be a functioning piece of the particle accelerator project, which if successful will be the first to map the spectrum of the exotic hybrid meson. The purpose of the tagger microscope is to “tag” the energy of photons by the energy of their magnet-bent emitted electron via scintillating fibers and silicon photomultiplier sensors. I created a calibrating robot which remotely traverses the tagger, delivering light pulses down each bundle of scintillating fibers. I wrote a Matlab Monte-Carlo simulation of a Gaussian laser beam to ensure enough light would be received by each fiber for this method to be effective. I published a paper on this research, and presented at the 2012 American Physics Society Department of Nuclear Physics conference earlier this year.

Looking Forward:

The ability to participate in NASA Academy this summer is the opportunity of a life-time that I am so grateful to have. My best college friend jokingly recalls that when we met freshman year and she asked me what I wanted to do in life, I responded, “Work for NASA!” I can’t wait to work in a positive, collaborative environment this summer with others who share that same passion.

I will be studying abroad this upcoming Fall semester in Australia, after which I plan to complete my undergraduate studies and pursue graduate school in aerospace engineering.


Running, Soccer, Tennis, Rock Climbing (and really any outdoor activity), scuba diving, exploring/hiking, learning languages and new cultures, and being in the sun with friends!