Sommer is a 2008–2012 Self Fellow pursuing a Ph.D. in bioengineering. She received a B.S. (2007) in a dual major in engineering with a mechanical emphasis and in dance from Hope College in Holland, Michigan. At Hope, Sommer was on the dean’s list each semester and received numerous awards and grants including a four-year Presidential Scholarship. As part of her senior design project she helped design a water system for a small rural village in Cameroon through Engineers Without Borders. She was also involved in undergraduate research at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.
Sommer is involved in multidisciplinary research at KU, collaborating with colleagues at the KU Medical Center to investigate how the brain controls muscle activity and movement. Her research looks at how muscle activity may be added as linear combinations called synergies and how certain areas of the brain may control joint angles of the upper extremity. Posters from this project have been presented at Neuroscience and won an award at the Capitol Graduate Research Summit in Topeka in February 2011. Sommer hopes to use her knowledge of the science of movement to improve physical therapies and to encourage students in industry, therapy, and entrepreneurship.
Mentor: Carl W. Luchies, Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering