Making her way through MIT


Gretchen Ertl

Gretchen Ertl

By Olivia Young 

Lucy Du, a doctoral student in the MIT Media Lab, has a remarkable passion for making. She spends her work day in lab designing and fabricating prosthetics, and devotes her free time to personal projects in the MIT MakerWorkshop or inspiring other students to try their hands at engineering. “The best feeling is when I get to go into a shop and make some parts, or order some parts — and the day they come in is like Christmas,” she says.

Her affinity for making started at a young age. “I loved building things and having tangible hardware to work on. Sitting there and coding or doing math all day was never what I wanted,” Du says. She participated in a robotics team in high school and has drawn inspiration from Disney movies and entertainment for many years, especially as their humanoid animatronic technology has grown. (Disney’s “eerily organic-looking” Spiderman stunt robot is a particular favorite of hers.)

Now, as a fourth-year PhD student, Du is channeling her passion for building things into designing a prosthetic ankle that is readily accessible to people of all sizes, since current commercial designs are only suited for tall individuals.

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