Class year: 2018
Major: Biomedical Engineering (BME)
Challenge: Engineering Better Medicine
How did you hear about the Grand Challenges Program?
I heard about it through a friend, who went to the initial meeting about it with Dean Norwood. I got curious so I started looking into it, too. After reading about the competencies and the challenges, I looked into the challenge “Engineering Better Medicine.” I thought about what I did as an undergraduate and started relating the competencies back to that. I was doing this retroactively, as a senior, so I met with Dean Norwood and had a conversation with her about whether what I had done as an undergraduate could work for this program.
Why did you decide to apply for the Grand Challenges program?
I applied because I thought it was a really good thing to bring everything I did as an undergrad together. As an undergraduate, you major in something, but how do you showcase what you actually focused on? Grand Challenges puts what I did as an undergraduate all together. It’s connecting all the dots, fitting it under an umbrella that all makes sense to you.
Which of the five “competencies” (research, interdisciplinary, entrepreneurship/innovation, global, service) did you most enjoy completing? Why?
Global experience, research, and entrepreneurship/innovation. Being able to go abroad and do research, work in industry and see how that feels, and classes I took here and competitions here that were really related to medicine, taught me that not everything is about lab or cell culture work. I learned that it’s also about how you take an idea, take it out of the lab, and turn it into something that is profitable or made more accessible to other people. There’s the question of how to patent it and make it into a business.
Do you think you will want to continue work in the field of your “challenge” after graduation? How?
Yes, I plan to go to grad school after a gap year. During my gap year, starting in the summer, I will be doing a research assistantship in Panama and then preparing for graduate school. My work will be in biotechnology and biomedicine. In the long-term, I think that the different competencies are very different, and some resonate with a specific challenge better than others. For me, the competencies themselves showed me a different perspective on what you can do with medicine: business, research, service and working with sick people, and so on. It helped give me a perspective on what you can do with medicine in the future.
You were able to have most, if not all, of your competencies completed by this year before applying to be a Grand Challenges scholar. How did being at the U of R help you to complete this program?
It’s a very big university that’s heavy in research, so getting research opportunities in the beginning of my undergrad career was very helpful and important. Research here was the bridge that got me into the DAAD-RISE program as a sophomore. DAAD-RISE taught me a lot about how research looks, and that some of it is going to conferences, presenting, and interacting with other professionals. From there, with research experience under my belt, getting industry research was the next step. When I interned at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, I got a comparison to how it’s different from research in Europe, and at URMC. So, the easy access to research opportunities here at Rochester helped me a lot.
For you, what is the value of the Grand Challenges program?
Looking at the major challenges, I think it provides the overarching theme or umbrella of what you are interested in. How do I work towards doing the competencies? What is your ultimate goal and how do you get there? In my experience, I’ve always wanted to be in the sciences and a lot of a things I did were already around an “engineering a better medicine” category. For someone who doesn’t know what they want to do, the value is for them to build their own experience, including curriculum, and the challenge wraps everything together and turns it into a coherent story. Also, it gets you to think about what you did as an undergrad, what pieces fit, and what you did on campus and off campus. For future freshmen applying to grand challenges, their perspective will be different.