Leah Peker is the recipient of the 2017 SOM Structural Engineering Travel Fellowship.
As a child, Leah’s father — an architect who emigrated from Turkey — exposed her to the world of structures. She was raised on Long Island, NY, where she began to develop her love for the aesthetic and interest in both the physical form of space and its effect on human experience. This passion followed her into adulthood.
After receiving an International Baccalaureate Diploma from Commack High School, Leah went on to earn her Bachelor of Science in Physics at the University of Pittsburgh in 2014. As an undergraduate, she worked in Dr. Hrvoje Petek’s solid state physics lab. There, she studied carbon capture on organic molecules in pursuit of a potential application to reduce atmospheric carbon. In 2013 she was awarded the Emil Sanielevici Memorial Scholarship for her research. This research in sustainability combined with her passion for architecture led her in the direction of structural engineering.
Leah will graduate from Columbia University with a Master of Science in Structural Engineering in May 2017. Combining work and academia, she has spent the better part of a year interning at Severud Associates, where she has gained her first hands-on experience as an engineer. Both settings have given her the opportunity to learn from visionary engineers who inspire by example.
As a SOM Foundation Fellow, Leah will investigate her research topic, The Mathematics of Innovation: Deriving Structural Art From Geometric Form. She will “travel to structures from different eras and different cultural backgrounds to identify unifying themes in the mathematical mindset.” As she visits various sites, she hopes to acquire a deeper understanding of how “geometric form as the root of a structure” influences the structural and architectural landscape.