Biomedical Engineering major Mikayla Barry, ’17 has been chosen as Texas A&M University’s first Beckman Scholar. Barry was chosen as a second semester freshman in Spring 2014 through an intensive written application and interview process that probed her goals, values and commitment to a career in scientific research and community service. Barry impressed the faculty, staff and student reviewers and interviewers with her broad range of interests, her academic success, the depth of her self-knowledge and her dedication to learning and personal development.
Early in her academic career she had already taken on leadership roles in the Texas A&M Wind Symphony and Advocates for Christ Today, a church-based social justice organization, while maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPR and her status as an Honors student in the College of Engineering Honors Program. Barry was able to speak knowledgeably and coherently to the interview panel about her desire to create artificial organs and the issues the field will have to solve to make this goal a reality.
As part of the selection process, Barry interviewed with potential faculty research mentors and chose to join Dr. Melissa Grunlan’s laboratory in Biomedical Engineering starting in summer of 2014. In Dr. Grunlan’s group, Barry has been developing new coatings for medical devices to prevent blood clotting and infection following implantation. Barry has made considerable progress on the project over the summer, learning how to synthesize new coating materials and test them in a variety of ways to establish their properties. She is continuing her research this semester and anticipates being able to contribute to the understanding of the properties exhibited by different types of coatings.
In August Barry and her advisor Dr. Grunlan attended the Beckman Symposium in Newport Beach to meet with other Beckman Scholars and mentors and hear talks from prominent scientists from across the nation. They enjoyed presentations by luminaries such as Dr. Richard Zare of Stanford, an expert on laser chemistry, and Dr. Adam Feinberg of Carnegie Mellon University, who is developing strategies to use 3-D scaffolds to build heart tissues. Barry and Grunlan also had the opportunity to view the Arnold Beckman exhibit, which showcases Dr. Beckman’s stunning achievements in invention, technology and philanthropy that revolutionized scientific research.
Now deep into the first semester of her sophomore year at Texas A&M, Barry is continuing her research with Dr. Grunlan and engaging in additional activities as part of her Beckman Scholars Program. She is part of the first year University Scholars seminar where she is further developing her leadership skills, thinking deeply about her goals and cultivating her curiosity and innovation. She meets periodically with the Executive and Editorial Boards of Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal to discover how review and publication decisions are made and preparing applications for several National Fellowships in STEM areas. As she moves forward in her time here at Texas A&M, we look forward to finding out to what heights our first Beckman Scholar will climb!