Chrysta Irolla, ENG'08
Chrysta Irolla became interested in attending Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) thanks to one of the University’s oldest athletic traditions. “I was running in the Penn Relays as a junior in high school, and I was in the midst of looking at colleges I wanted to apply to,” she says. “Penn had a different dynamic. When I did a tour I discovered that it offered engineering students a lot of opportunities to pursue independent and international projects to learn about business.”
Penn’s interdisciplinary advantage is something Chrysta has taken full advantage of in her time here. “I just finished taking two Engineering Entrepreneurship classes,” she says, “which focus on teaching engineers about business, so they can really be successful in launching their own inventions in the market after they graduate.” Additionally, Chrysta has developed her entrepreneurial interests at the Weiss Tech House, a student hub dedicated to fostering the creation, development, and commercialization of new technologies.
Interested in international service work, Chrysta took part in the Global Biomedical Service (GBS) Program, a service-learning initiative of SEAS. In 2006, Chrysta and the GBS team traveled to rural China to build prosthetic limbs for amputees. During the trip, she noticed that some patients experienced discomfort when they walked with their prosthetics. This observation led her to develop a device she calls the “SmartSock”. “The SmartSock is for people who have had transtibial, or below-the-knee, amputations,” Chrysta explains. “The sock is able to sense and redistribute the pressure on the affected limb, so that when the patients walk, it’s easier and more comfortable.”
Chrysta may never have been inspired to invent the SmartSock without the significant financial aid that made it possible for her to attend Penn. “My grants,” she says, “are a large part of the reason that I’m here. Penn had to offer a pretty persuasive financial package to convince my mother that I could afford to come here.” And in Chrysta’s case, the ripple effects of financial aid have been felt around the world.
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