November 1, 2016

Madonna Yoder is recognized for Excellence in Undergraduate Research

The Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research was presented to Madonna Yoder, a senior undergraduate in MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) for her work on THE LOWER CHARLES RIVER CHART PROJECT.

This summer Madonna Yoder worked with MIT Sea Grant research engineer Mike Sacarny to create a chart of the lower Charles River. This project is the result of a partnership between MIT Sea Grant and the Charles River Alliance of Boaters (CRAB).

Madonna grew up around technology and early on developed a fascination with math and science. As a child, her dad likes to tell stories about how she used a digitizer before she used a mouse. She continued pursuing her passion by taking extra math and science classes in high school. When she visited the MIT campus it immediately felt like she belonged there.

The lower Charles River is one of the most heavily recreational used rivers in the world. Sediment deposition, however, threatens this resource. While there have been numerous river surveys over the past hundred years, no current map addresses the needs of this community. The Chart Project provides critical information so that the rowing, sailing, yacht clubs, university centers, government organizations, and other stakeholders can better plan for the vitality of the Charles.

Madonna’s favorite part of the project is going out on the boat and deploying the sonar probe to gather the data. While back in the office, she figures out how to best display the charts of the collected data. They have have already mapped from the New Charles River Dam through the Museum of Science and working on mapping the area between the Museum of Science and Longfellow Bridge.

Using the data collected over the summer they have created both digital and print products that display the depth for each section of the Charles. This data will be given to various state and local govenment agencies so they can make more informed decision about river accessibility. Duck Boat tours are particularly interested in the project and are a major sponsor because they take tourists out on the Charles River.

Madonna was involved in virtually all phases of the project, including installation of data logging equipment, sonar field survey work, data processing and analysis, and chart development. She faced each aspect of the project with fortitude, aggressively anticipating problems and finding solutions.

Madonna is a part of the Women’s Independent Living Group where she is the house manager in charge of repairing the house. She is a part of the Women’s Volleyball Club at MIT, which she finds is a great support group, and participates in wrestling club open mats at MIT’s gym. She plays alto sax in the marching band, and in her spare time she likes to make modular origami.


Madonna Yoder, recipient of the Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research, pilots a boat on the Charles River collecting sonar data.