Cristina Mata, Hallie Voulgaris and Sitara Persad applied their MIT education at SISSA Mathlab.
Cristina Mata, Hallie Voulgaris and Sitara Persad in front of SISSA

Applying an MIT Education

At SISSA Mathlab this summer, three MIT Math majors applied their MIT education to real world issues.

Formation of Cracks

For her project, Junior Hallie Voulgaris used the finite element method to create computer models describing the formation of cracks in linearly elastic solids under various stresses. A key point of interest was how to deal with the crack itself, because it produces a discontinuity in the material which causes the models she was using to fail. Over the course of the summer, Hallie created various models which will be used as tools for the group’s future research. “I was fascinated by the more abstract goals of numerical analysis research,” she shares, “and might search for future classes or research in this area.” Because she was very set on a theoretical path, this exposure to applied research has opened up other possibilities for her future.

Aortic Coarctation

Cristina Mata worked on a project that aims at helping clinicians determine the best patient-specific treatments for people with aortic coarctation, a congenital defect in which the patient is born with a narrowing in the aorta, the largest artery in the body. Since the geometries of the aortas differ greatly in different patients, treatments must be decided on a case-by-case basis. By collecting a large amount of data from multiple patients, reconstructing the arterial geometries and then using computational fluid dynamics to simulate the effect of blood flow on arterial walls, doctors can best decide on a treatment. In addition to working with Irop Co-ordinator, Dr. Gianluigi Rozza, Cristina collaborated with the project’s partners in Toronto to construct 3D models of living patient’s aortas from MRI and CT scan data.

Finite Element Analysis

As a mathematics major at MIT, Sitara Persad had experience in solving theoretical problems, but her MIT-Italy internship gave her the opportunity to grapple with real life puzzles and apply the mathematical techniques to research in physical applied mathematics. Working with fellow MISTI interns and researchers at SISSA, Sitrara assisted in developing models to understand the behavior of linearly elastic materials under stresses and fractures, through finite element analysis (FEA). FEA, a technique which approximates solutions to complex partial differential equations, is used in many industries where physical testing of materials under stress is difficult or costly, such as the airline industry. Ultimately, Sitrara was able to contribute new code and documentation to the team’s project, which allowed them to study the behavior of different materials under different types of mechanical deformations, and assist them in the development of new code to solve different models using FEniCS.



"Working at SISSA, I was able to meet so many new people, not only from Italy, but from across the world,” she says. “My worldview was definitely broadened through my conversations with friends from such a variety of cultures.”

  • Italy
  • Internship
  • Math