Ahalya Lettenberger, from Glen Ellyn, Illinois, graduated Summa Cum Laude in May 2023 from Rice University, Houston TX, with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Bioengineering.
Born with a physical disability, Arthrogryposis, which causes muscle weakness and joint restriction in the lower limbs, Ahalya learned to embrace her situation through swimming and is passionate about helping others with disabilities to find the same acceptance and independence through rehabilitation technology such as prosthetics and exoskeletons. In the Mechatronics and Haptic Interfaces at Rice, Ahalya performed research on differences in robotic and manual surgery (published 2 papers), and helped design a robotic exoskeleton for arm rehabilitation. During her time as a research intern at Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, the #1 rehabilitation hospital in the US, Ahalya developed and tested new step counting algorithms for lower-limb amputees and also published one paper.
Currently a research intern in the Centre for Human Performance at Rice University, Ahalya is investigating how motion capture data can be implemented to improve baseball players’ pitching biomechanics.
A member of the US Paralympic Swimming National Team and Division I Rice University Swim Team, Ahalya is currently training for the Paris Paralympic Games next summer. She won a silver medal in swimming (200 IM SM7) at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Game and has competed at two Para Swimming World Championships in the UK – London and Manchester.
Ahalya is also a motivational speaker and disability advocate. She has spoken at elementary and middle schools about disability awareness and fostering inclusion. She also performed a TEDx Talk at Rice University about creating more opportunities for equality and accessibility for people with disabilities.
As a Marshall Scholar, Ahalya will spend her first year at Loughborough University studying for a Master of Science Degree in Sport Biomechanics, and is keen to swim for the University Team. Her second year will be at University College London pursuing a second Master of Science Degree in Disability, Design and Innovation.