Armstrong combines passions for hole-in-one career

It’s not easy giving up something you’re passionate about—especially after honing your craft for twelve years. But for MechSE graduate student Ashley Armstrong, moving to another chapter in life didn’t mean sacrificing her love of golf for her studies. For her, combining her interests in mechanical engineering and golf are the perfect fit. 
Armstrong grew up on the south side of Chicago. She earned her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 2015 from the University of Notre Dame, where she was a three-time Academic All-American on the women’s golf team. Despite her passion for the sport, Armstrong knew she wanted to continue her studies in engineering. 
“Towards my junior and senior year, I knew I wanted to go to grad school because I wasn’t able to spend as much time on my education as I would have liked to,” Armstrong said. “I knew that after I finished golf and the athletic chapter of my life, I wanted to continue my education.”
Armstrong chose the University of Illinois to pursue her master’s degree in mechanical engineering, and has since received fellowships from the NSF, NCAA and ACC for her research. 
Co-advised by MechSE professors Andrew Alleyne and Amy Wagoner Johnson, Armstrong’s research focuses on two primary areas: control theory, or applying mathematical frameworks to stabilize and make robust systems, as well as biomechanical engineering, particularly bone scaffolding. 
“Thankfully, at Illinois, I am able to combine those two interests through 3D printing, which is closer to the control side, and the application of this 3D printer in fabricating bone scaffolds, which is the biomechanics side,” she said. “I’ve always had an interest with my swing dynamics, always considering where my body is in time and space and being able to control that.” 
During the summer of 2014 (prior to her final undergraduate year), Armstrong interned at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, where she worked in the Center for Bionic Medicine and Prosthetics. It was there that she discovered prosthetics as another area combining her two interests.