Dean Horn awardees Emma Rutherford and Ariana Ilvonen

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Emma Rutherford and Arianna Ilvonen win 2023 Dean A. Horn Award for Undergraduate Study in Marine Research

MIT Sea Grant announces the winners of the 2023 Dean A. Horn Award for Undergraduate Study in Marine Research. This year’s award goes to Emma Rutherford, a graduating senior in MIT Mechanical Engineering and Physics, and Arianna Ilvonen, a third year student in Mechanical Engineering.

Emma Rutherford (Mechanical Engineering + Physics ’23)

Design and Deployment of an Underwater Enclosure for a High-Speed Video Camera

Emma’s work involved the development of a prototype submersible high speed camera system tethered and controlled by a shore-side computer. This work lays the foundation for the development of an untethered, self-contained housing that will be solely maneuvered and controlled by a diver. Emma was the main engineering talent on the prototype underwater high speed (1,000 frames/sec) camera capable of being operated by a scuba diver. She designed and performed detailed thermal modeling and analysis, resulting in a new design optimized to support the high heat load created by the camera. Her design paper was selected for presentation at the prestigious IEEE / OES Oceans conference in Limerick, Ireland.

Emma came to MIT looking to find projects that combined her interests in science and engineering with art and design, while making a meaningful impact. As a freshman participating in MIT’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), Emma worked with MIT Sea Grant Visiting Artist Keith Ellenbogen on a satellite imagery project that turned into designing an exhibit at the New England Aquarium and led to her award-winning project. MIT Sea Grant has allowed Emma to grow as an engineer and designer by supporting her learning on a diverse range of projects. She will be continuing her studies at MIT as a graduate student in Mechanical Engineering in September 2024.

Keith praised Emma for her ingenuity and her quick mastery of the artistic and technical aspects of the image-making process. She is also able to visualize unique solutions to address problems and communicate her ideas. Her MIT advisor and MIT Sea Grant Education Administrator Andrew Bennett stated that Emma “is a proven self-starter, an excellent communicator, and possesses outstanding analytical skills.”

Arianna Ilvonen (Mechanical Engineering ’24)

Design and Testing of an Autonomous Cable Mounted Aquaculture Robot

Arianna is a rising senior who has been the main engineering talent on the cable-riding robot, “Zippy,” since the beginning of her sophomore year. Zippy is designed for use in conservation and climate change research to monitor coastal environments by traversing a fixed cable, thus providing high temporally- and spatially-consistent readings at a lower cost, time investment, and risk than manual data collection. It can also theoretically be used to automatically feed various aquatic animals in an aquaculture setting. She designed both the generation 2 and generation 3 versions of the robot and documented her design thinking and progress thoroughly. Arianna presented her early work at a coastal resilience function in the fall of 2021, and most recently was selected “Best UROP Poster Award” at the annual MIT Mechanical Engineering Research Exhibition on March 10, 2023.

Arianna entered MIT with a passion for the health of the planet as a Mechanical Engineering student, looked for ways to work on tools for scientists pursuing that interest. Through her research at MIT Sea Grant, the project has developed into a fully functional vehicle capable of aiding in our understanding of the coasts.

Dean A. Horn and the Award

Dean A. Horn was Director of MIT Sea Grant from 1975 to 1982. The Award originated upon his retirement in 1983, established by friends and colleagues to honor his ideals: service, creativity, pursuit of excellence and tireless application to research. An award of $1000 is presented yearly to selected MIT undergraduate students for creative marine-related projects and resulting papers. Students from any academic department at MIT are eligible.

For a complete list of past winners and for more information about the Dean Horn Award, visit