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Ford wins SURF scholarship

Joni FordTrying to avoid using a pun on "SURF" for this article proved a unique challenge. 

So instead, let's focus on the fact that hard work and persistence led one undergraduate student toward her true academic path in electrical and computer engineering at The Ohio State University. Her efforts were recently awarded with a scholarship to fuel her drive.

ECE student, Joni Ford, won a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) to work with Dr. Richard Steiner at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

“My project will entail testing various smart watt-hour meters in order to determine better accuracy in reading, specifically from distorted signals,” Ford said.

Utilizing digital technology and computer networking, smart meters transmit real-time data to enable utilities to conserve electricity and better allocate power during parts of the day when overall demand is high.

As the New York Times previously reported, progressing smart grid technology is predicted to help reduce national electricity use by more than 4 percent annually by 2030. That could mean annual savings of roughly $20.4 billion for utilities and their customers.

Originally from Cincinnati, Ford started out her academic journey at Ohio State pursuing a career in medicine. For three years, she worked in the Neuroimmunology Laboratory, studying the cognitive and neuro-inflammatory effects of traumatic brain injuries.

Ford said working in the lab helped reveal her true academic passion, which ultimately led to engineering.

“During my time in the lab, I absolutely fell in love with the research process,” she said. “Engineering has always been an intriguing field to me due to the innovation, creativity and discovery innate to the field. I chose to pursue engineering in order to broaden my career options and enhance my skill set. As well, I have always had a strong interest in medical technology, such as neuroprosthetics, neuroimplants and imaging.”

The move admittedly pushed her graduation date a bit further out, but in the end, she plans to earn both ECE and Neuroscience degrees at Ohio State.

“I hope to pursue a career in research and development, focusing on signal processing in biosensors or medical imaging,” Ford said.

A variety of colleges and universities across the country currently sponsor SURF programs. Ford’s scholarship will pay to have her work in Maryland for 11 weeks.