Tag Archives: Biomedical Engineering

Student Voices: The Short Version

Sarah Gibson ’17 graduated in May  2017 with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering and the Honors Fellows distinction. In the post below, she describes the determination and effort that went into being successful in and out of the classroom, as well as the support she received along the way.

Once upon a time, there was a high school senior who dreamed of competing in college athletics while pursuing an honors distinction in engineering. Naturally, everyone else thought she was a little crazy.

I am, but that’s only tangentially relevant to this story.

My name is Sarah Gibson, and I am a former biomedical engineering student and swimmer in addition to being the loudest and proudest member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Class of 2017! A WHOOP!

IMG_4017
Sarah Gibson ’17

Looking back on my time at this amazing university, I am left with two overwhelming impressions. Firstly, where did the time go? Secondly, did I really just do that?

That, for clarity’s sake, being the trifecta of graduating from engineering in four years while competing, representing the United States in World Championships, and being honored with far too many awards as a scholar athlete.

Now I’ll admit these were things I’d dreamt of, but in all honesty, my doubts outweighed my dreams quite exponentially. Picture this: my test scores were decent, my best times mediocre. Outside a burning hatred of being told “no” and a stubborn streak that went on for light-years, I wasn’t a five star recruit by any measure. Fortunately for me, there was a coach willing to take a chance on me, so I packed up my bags and headed over to Aggieland.

I’ve heard it said that many people discover who they are during their college years, but I spent more time discovering who and what I wasn’t. For example, I wasn’t able to keep up in practices for the first year or so. Throughout that first semester, every night I’d flop down in my dorm room and think “you’ve finally bit off more than you can chew, honey”, quickly followed by “there’s no way I can finish my homework and study for that test” with a dash of “I wonder how much Buc-ee’s pays its employees”.

I share this – not because it’s kinda funny after the fact, though it is very much so – because I know it is easy to look at someone successful and say “gee, I’d love to be like that if only <insert relevant qualifying statement of choice>”. That’s just an oversimplification.

I struggled every day. Whether it was getting through sets or staying awake in lecture, everything took tooth-and-nail clawing to reach the goals I had set for myself; however, I would be remiss in attributing this to myself alone. My friends enabled my achievements.

From my honors family coming to watch me at dual meets to the other BMEN-ites sharing notes and, more often, food, my classmates at Texas A&M provided the support I needed to be the woman I aspired to. Let’s walk through a typical day for illustrative purposes.

It’s 5:00 AM, my phone alarm blaring. I stumble out of bed, grab my things, and head over to the Rec for practice. We begin at six o’ clock exactly, so I have around twenty minutes once I’m in the locker room to review notes, check my email, and eat a meal bar before workout begins. My teammates arrive, and we mumble and grumble about it being too early and the water too cold. The clock strikes six, and the workout begins.

If you’ve never trained in a competitive sport before, I’m not sure how to describe the utterly jaw-clenching, body-aching, oh-dear-lord-make-it-stop pain of workouts. To those of you who’re nodding along, you know what I mean. It’s a deep burn, an exhaustion that turns even the most menial of tasks into Herculean trials, both physically and mentally. It’s the kind of tired where you come home and flop onto your bed, only to start sobbing because you remember all the assignments due tomorrow that you haven’t even touched yet.

Okay, so that last one might be a little more me-specific, but you get the picture. Workouts last two hours on paper, and a little longer in practice. After swimming, it’s time to head over to the weight room for our morning lift. That takes another hour out of the day, so it’s 9:00 in the morning and we’ve done more work than most people will do all day, before the average college student has rolled out of bed. Not bad for a bunch of meathead jocks, right?

Off to class, already three hours deep in physical and mental exertion, is it any wonder athletes have such a hard time being present in the classroom? I was fortunate to have friends in class who would lend a hand by helping me stay awake or letting me look over their notes. Honors classes helped in that regard by being smaller and more focused, so paying attention required less effort on my end. I also deeply enjoyed getting to know my professors, who are hands down some of the most interesting people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

After surviving class and getting assigned several hours of homework that I mentally defer until the weekend, I go back to the Rec for another two hours of workout. Then, I scrounge up some dinner, try to study, and go to bed before 11:00. Before long, the alarm goes off and the cycle begins anew.

Add, atop the grueling training schedule, the absences of in-season competition, which takes several weeks away from student-athletes, and it become apparent that while representing your school is an incredible honor, it is also fraught with obligations and expectations. I know, without an iota of doubt in my heart, that I could not have achieved the success I have without the support of my friends and colleagues. The Honors Program provided an opportunity to make those connections with people I otherwise would never have met, to which I am grateful.

Why embark on this journey if it’s so difficult? Well, although I admit to enjoying the simple things in life as much as the next person, something about reaching beyond what’s safe – what smaller minds may dub “unattainable” – makes the success all the more sweet. Without having chased my dream, I would be less than half the woman I am today, let alone the caliber of athlete and scholar

As I write this recollection from my hotel room in Budapest, where I await the beginning of the pool swimming portion of the 17th FINA World Championships, my phone is constantly buzzing with well wishes from friends around the globe, but with a noticeably higher concentration of Aggies than average. It is with their belief and support that I can step forward on the international stage without being crippled by fear.

After all, what’s a 100 butterfly when compared to solving partial differentials on three hours of sleep?

To view Gibson’s athletics roster profile, visit http://www.12thman.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=3399 

Three Aggies Selected for Goldwater Honorable Mention

LAUNCH: National Fellowships is delighted to announce the recognition of three outstanding students in this year’s Goldwater Scholarship competition. Kendal Ezell ‘18, Kanika Gakhar ‘18, and Brooke Versaw ’18 were all selected for Barry Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention.

Kanika says of the honor that “Receiving the Goldwater Honorable Mention has been a humbling reminder of the appreciation the research community has for projects like mine. By encouraging young undergraduate researchers like me to pursue topics of interest in the field of science and technology, the Goldwater Scholarship committee is truly doing a remarkable job at helping students recognize their passions and the significance of their work in a global research community. I am very grateful to LAUNCH for introducing me to this opportunity and giving me a chance to refine and present my research proposal to the prestigious Goldwater Committee. “

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program seeks sophomores and juniors who are planning careers in STEM research. Fewer than 300 Goldwater Scholars are chosen from across the nation each year, so the scholarship is both prestigious and highly competitive. Candidates must demonstrate strong research experience, clear vision for a research career, and academic excellence in STEM coursework. Students selected as Goldwater Scholars receive a $7,500 scholarship for the next academic year.

Goldwater Honorable Mention, Kendall Ezell ’18

Kendal Ezell ’18 is a junior biomedical engineering major from Corpus Christi, TX. Ezell’s extensive involvement at Texas A&M has included Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, Student Engineers’ Council, American Medical Student Association, and the University Honors Program and Engineering Honors. She has been selected for numerous honors and awards including as a Benjamin A. Gilman International Fellowship, as the 2017 Phi Kappa Phi Outstanding Junior for the College of Engineering, Southerland Aggie Leader Scholar, and Peter Chaplinsky Memorial Scholar.

Ezell currently works in the Biomedical Device Laboratory with Dr. Duncan Maitland, researching biomaterials and material characterization. She plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and conduct research in a clinical setting to develop new medical technologies for practice. Her primary interest is treatment and prevention of tissue degradation in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Ezell’s extensive undergraduate research will result in two first-author publications on independent projects as well as other publications by the time she graduates.

Goldwater Honorable Mention Kanika Gakhar ’18

Kanika Gakhar ’18 is a junior aerospace engineering major from Faridabad, Haryana, India. She has extensive leadership experience from her involvement in in Lambda Sigma Honor Society, the Memorial Student Center, Maroon & White Leadership Fellows, and Undergraduate Research Ambassadors. Gakhar has been selected as a University Scholar, for the TAMU Academic Excellence Award, the Larry J. McQuien ’76 “Take Flight Award,” and was part of a design team selected to present at the SpaceX Hyperloop Design Weekend.

Gakhar is currently working in the Advanced Vertical Flight Laboratory with Dr. Moble Benedict. Her Undergraduate Research Scholar thesis is on a robotic hummingbird project that seeks to revolutionize the field micro-aerial vehicles by improving efficiency of flapping-wing mechanisms through mimicry of insects and birds. Gakhar is also working with a team of mechanical, electrical, and aerospace engineering students on an Aggie Challenge Project focused on preventing railroad accidents and train derailments. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering and conduct research in biomimicry and nature-inspired design to revolutionize atmospheric and space flight. Gakhar’s research has resulted in multiple publications, including one for which she is first author.

Goldwater Honorable Mention Brooke Versaw ’18

Brooke Versaw ’18 is a junior chemistry major from College Station, TX. Versaw has served in leadership roles with the American Chemical Society and Aggie Honor Council, and has been active as a member of the MSC Visual Arts Committee and as a National Scholar Ambassador. Versaw was selected as a University Scholar, Beckman Scholar, Undergraduate Research Ambassador, and a Robert A. Welch Foundation Scholarship, and is proficient in Spanish.

Versaw has extensive experience in undergraduate research, having worked in Dr. Junha Jeon’s synthetic organic lab, with Dr. Steve Lockless’s protein chemistry group, and in Dr. Karen Wooley’s polymers and functional macromolecules laboratory. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in polymer chemistry and have an academic career conducting research on polymer synthesis and materials characterization. Versaw’s research has resulted in multiple first-author publications.

Texas A&M has a long history of success with the Goldwater Scholarship. Previous Goldwater Scholars include Nicholas Mondrik ’15 (physics), Erica Gacasan ’16 (biomedical engineering), Aaron Griffin ’16 (biochemistry & genetics), and Maura Cadigan ’17 (aerospace engineering). If you are a STEM student invested in research and would like to learn more about the Goldwater Scholarship, please contact National Fellowships coordinator Benjamin Simington (natlfellows@tamu.edu) or visit our website: http://tx.ag/NatlFellows.

First Co-Op – Farhan Rob

Honors Students away from campus for study abroad, co-ops, or internships are encouraged to write about their experiences to share them with the Honors community. In the excerpt below, junior biomedical engineering major Farhan Rob ’18 reflects on his co-op experience.

Starting from January 2016 all the way to current day, I have worked as a co-op in the R&D division of St. Jude Medical Neuromodulation Division. This division of the major medical device company deals specifically with implantable medical devices for the brain and spinal cord in efforts to suppress debilitating movement disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease and tremors. Sounds pretty cool already right? I have worked here for a total of seven months and will be ending my term August 19th for a total of eight months and some change working here. This is longer than the traditional co-op (six months) and I am extremely grateful for the extra time here. From start to finish, there was no dull moment experienced in this co-op and I gained experiences and memories that will last a lifetime.

I have had no prior internships or co-ops to this one so I was a little nervous coming in on my first day as I had no idea what to expect. This was my first experience in the corporate world, much less the engineering world. However, the engineers that I would soon call my team helped me out every step of the way from figuring out the routes of the building to familiarizing myself with SJM policies. The first couple of weeks were largely uneventful since I was working on trainings and policy reviews. After that, I started to get my first tasks which in hindsight, were pretty small but they definitely left a lasting impact on me. The other engineers would help me every step of the way in the beginning and dealt with my constant questions in a very helpful manner. The best training was actually working on R&D tasks hands-on and getting familiar with how the team operates and what my role on the team was. I helped other engineers with their projects, I did small lab tasks, I wrote simple technical reports, the works. All of this is considered the woodworks of the engineering world, but nevertheless crucial in product development & innovation. This continued for several weeks as I started to get more and more comfortable with this new lifestyle.

Farhan Rob '18
Farhan Rob ’18

To read more of Farhan’s reflection, visit his ePortfolio: https://sites.google.com/site/farhanrob95/blog.

Back in the States – Blake Smith

Honors Students away from campus for study abroad, co-ops, or internships are encouraged to write about their experiences to share them with the Honors community. In the excerpt below, junior biomedical engineering major Blake Smith ’18 reflects on his time in Germany.

Blake Smith '18 (center)
Blake Smith ’18 (center)

One habit I picked up while abroad is calling the US The States instead. Somehow it just seemed more natural while in Europe. I am back now, and I don’t think there is as much of an adjustment period as people made me think there would be. Things don’t feel weird now that I am back in Texas. Its a little hot, which unfortunate because I don’t like the heat at all, but this has been my “normal” for my entire life, so spending a few months in a strange environment isn’t going to make my normal feel any different to me. All that is going to happen (and did happen) is me getting used to the strange environment I landed in back in January when I flew across the ocean to Germany.

When I woke up in Germany I rode the bus into a completely foreign city (although it became familiar). I took classes in a small classroom of 20 or less students. I would go eat and be faced with odd foods and cooks/cashiers who do not speak my language. I would either get by with rudimentary German or they would get the clue from my blank stare and respond in English if they could. When I was not in class or eating, I walked around a town with buildings older than the existence of my country. There were bakeries on every corner, and somehow German’s not obese (the German people must have some secret that allows them to eat copious amounts of bread without gaining weight). When I was done in the city I would take the bus back to a home that was not my own. I ate dinner with a family of strangers who were nice enough to let me stay in their house. They fed me great food, but it was all very different than what I would eat at home. In many ways it was better, but sometimes I would yearn for the comfort of familiar foods. This feeling or desiring familiarity changed though. The feeling of being out of place when surrounded by a foreign environment, people, language and food soon changed. These things never actually stopped being strange to me. What was foreign when I landed in Germany was still foreign when I boarded the plane back home. Instead these things changing, I changed. I became accustomed to the feeling of being out of place.

Part of me is happy that I am back in my normal, but part of me isn’t. Germany was such an adventure and there was always something going on at all times. I feel like this aspect is going to be really missing now that I am back home, but I am sure I will stop missing this over time. I am glad to be back and able to see family and friends. I have missed them a lot and its been good to see them and tell them all about my experiences. People always talk about how hard it is to answer the question of how studying abroad went, and I can understand that now. There were so many different adventures, feelings, and environments experienced that anything short of telling it all would not do it justice.

To read more of Blake’s posts from the Germany Biosciences Semester abroad, visit https://plus.google.com/100826743652176272947/posts.

Jay Garza – Pre-Flight

Honors Students away from campus for study abroad, co-ops, or internships are encouraged to write about their experiences to share them with the Honors community. In the excerpt below, junior biomedical engineering major Jay Garza ’18 shares some of the anxiety he had approaching his study abroad experience, as well as his rationale for pursuing experience abroad.

– By Jay Garza

It is only hours before my flight which will take me thousands of miles away. I’m fumbling around with my passport and ticket at DFW Airport Security. Holding up the line, I try to speed up. When a TSA worker asked me, “Staying or Going?” My mind went blank when i attempted to think of a response. Unable to answer the worker, I look up at the man with a dumbfounded stare as I walk through the X-ray machine and collect my things.

Situated at my gate, I began to realize that I have not put much—if any—thought at all into this trip. I did not learn any German. I did not pack any school supplies. I started to panic. Did I leave anything important? Are my friends going back home to forget about me? What will I do if my host family hates me? What am I going to do if my host family only eats beets?! I HATE beets! Who the hell signed me up for this trip?! Oh crap! That was me. What was I thinking?

Calmed down by a few deep breaths and some rational thoughts, I knew these worries were just a bit of pre-trip anxiety. Still though, I felt unprepared to embark on this journey, especially since this trip would be my first time traveling alone. Then I began to think of why I wanted to come in the first place.

I knew growing up where I did and going to school at Texas A&M, I was part of a bubble, unaffected by the changing world around it. Going to Germany would be an opportunity to burst that bubble and really explore an entirely different world outside my own small one. All I have to do is talk to the people. Coming to Germany would give me a chance to travel alone for the first time in my life. Knowing that I could single-handedly navigate myself through international borders not only gave me an incredible feeling of independence, but also gave me an enormous amount of confidence.

To read more from Jay’s study abroad blog entries, visit https://plus.google.com/104900538495037609337/posts.

Jay Garza '17 listens intently to an audioguide.
Jay Garza ’17 (center) listens intently to an audioguide.

 

Ashley Holt and Luke Oaks Selected as 2016 Beckman Scholars

LAUNCH congratulates biomedical engineering majors Ashley Holt ’19 and Luke Oaks ’19 on their selection as 2016 Beckman Scholars. In 2013, Texas A&M was invited to be one of twelve institutions participating in the Beckman Scholars program, which supports undergraduate research in chemistry, biochemistry, biomedical engineering, and genetics. The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, in conjunction with the TAMU office of the Vice President for Research, provides a scholarship for the Scholars, who are chosen at A&M through a rigorous application and interview process. A&M’s Beckman Scholars begin research with their Beckman faculty mentors during the summer after their freshman year and continue this research until graduation.

2016 Beckman Scholar Ashley Holt
2016 Beckman Scholar Ashley Holt

This summer, Ashley will join Dr. Ry Young’s lab to begin her work as a Beckman Scholar. She will be working to discover the mechanism by which a specific bacteriophage, or virus that infects bacteria, destroys the outer membrane of its host cell. The phage that she will be studying infects a type of E. coli and, in outbreaks, has been causing the release of harmful toxins along with the destruction of the bacterial cells. The outcome of this research could lead to methods of treatment for these particular outbreaks and, with a better understanding of the workings of phages, could lead to new antibiotic agents.

This will be Ashley’s first research lab experience, and she looks forward to learning and developing as a researcher and scientist. Ashley is excited to have the opportunity to work outside of her department and to gain some interdisciplinary knowledge. Overall, in her research career, she would like to work toward the accomplishment of one of the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges: Engineering Better Medicine. Specifically, Ashley hopes to help create new and better antibiotics in order to combat the growing problem of multidrug resistant bacteria.

During her time at A&M, Ashley has joined the Biomedical Engineering Society and Discover, Explore, and Enjoy Physics and Engineering (DEEP), as well as John 15 and Transformers Bible Study. She is a Women in Engineering Ambassador and a member of both the Engineering Honors and University Honors programs. Ashley was also recently selected as a University Scholar. Before beginning her freshman year at A&M, Ashley was recognized as an AP Scholar with Distinction and as the valedictorian at her high school, where she served as president of both National Honor Society and the choir. Ashley is from Kingwood, Texas.

2016 Beckman Scholar Luke Oaks
2016 Beckman Scholar Luke Oaks

Luke, son of Todd and Michele Oaks, is an undergraduate research assistant in the Grunlan Polymeric Biomaterials Lab, where he contributes to the development of an implantable glucose biosensor. During his first semester at Texas A&M, Luke was an experimental researcher for the DeBakey Undergraduate Research Scholars program, studying the relationship between radiation therapy and lymphatic failure. Additionally, in the summer before his freshman year, he was contracted as a Wright Scholars Research Assistant for the Air Force Research Lab in southwestern Ohio to work with heart rate sensors. Luke will begin his career as a Beckman Scholar this summer in Dr. Gerard Coté’s bioinstrumentation lab, where he will be initiating an independent project to develop a novel biomarker platform technology that uses surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy for lung cancer diagnosis.

In addition to his research endeavors, Luke has heavily involved himself in a variety of campus activities, including serving as a Texas A&M National Scholar Ambassador as well as joining the Editorial Board for Explorations: the Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal. He has also participated in three design competitions through Aggies Invent, represents the club tennis team – for which he is Vice President – at the national level, and was a delegate to the Gilbert Leadership Conference. After attending the POSSE+ Retreat earlier in the spring semester, Luke has developed strong ties to the POSSE Scholar community and looks forward to mentoring incoming freshmen during a STEM immersion experience later this summer.

Due to his extracurricular involvement and ongoing commitment to serving as an advisor for a community service initiative in his hometown, Luke received Texas A&M’s Freshman Class Star Award for Leadership. Additionally, Luke, a member of the Engineering Honors program, was recently selected as a University Scholar. He has been designated as one of 15 college students in the nation to serve on an advisory board for Pearson Higher Education, where he hopes to improve modern educational technologies by focusing his passions for sociology and academic empowerment. Prior to attending Texas A&M, Luke was recognized as a National Merit Scholar, a National AP Scholar, and the valedictorian of his high school in Troy, Ohio. He is pursuing a minor in sociology.

Ashley and Luke join Mikayla Barry ’17, a current Beckman Scholar in biomedical engineering, as well as Scholars Gabby Lessen ’18 in biochemistry, Jennifer Tran ’18 in biochemistry and genetics, and Brooke Versaw ’18 in chemistry.

Two Aggies Honored in Goldwater Competition

LAUNCH: National Fellowships is delighted to announce the recognition of two outstanding students in this year’s Goldwater Scholarship competition. The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program seeks sophomores and juniors who are planning careers in STEM research. Fewer than 300 Goldwater Scholars are chosen from across the nation each year, so the scholarship is both prestigious and highly competitive. Candidates must demonstrate strong research experience, clear vision for a research career, and academic excellence in STEM coursework. Students selected as Goldwater Scholars receive a $7,500 scholarship for the next academic year.

Maura Cadigan '17, 2016 Goldwater Scholar
Maura Cadigan ’17, 2016 Goldwater Scholar

Maura Cadigan ’17, a junior aerospace engineering major, was selected as a Goldwater Scholar. Maura has previously conducted research under Dr. Rodney Bowersox on the Supersonic High-Reynold’s wind tunnel at the National Aerothermochemistry Laboratory. She is also the first Aggie to be selected for the Stanford U.S. Russia Forum, a collaborative research effort between the two countries that examines competition between aircraft manufacturers, with a particular focus on China. As the team’s technical consultant, Maura researches the technical requirements of Chinese markets. Maura’s work on gold-plated nanorods with the Warner Research Group at LSU resulted in her co-authorship on a publication in the Journal of Materials Chemistry. Additionally, Maura is the mechanical team lead on a VEX Robotics team, participates in Student Engineers’ Council and the Society of Women Engineers, and has interned at United Launch Alliance and the Paris Air Show. She intends to pursue a PhD in aerospace engineering, researching advanced space propulsion systems, and then work for NASA or a national laboratory.

Kendal Ezell '18, 2016 Goldwater Honorable Mention
Kendal Ezell ’18, 2016 Goldwater Honorable Mention

Kendal Ezell ’18, a sophomore biomedical engineering major, received an Honorable Mention. She has recently served as a research assistant, examining the locations of memory processes, to Dr. Mark Packard in the Institute of Neuroscience. Kendal also researches shape memory polymers in the Biomedical Device Laboratory with Dr. Duncan Maitland and is co-author on a publication based on this work. Kendal’s involvement at Texas A&M includes sorority Kappa Alpha Theta, Student Engineers’ Council, the University and Engineering Honors programs, and biomedical engineering honor society Alpha Eta Mu Beta. She plans to pursue a MD-PhD and become a clinical researcher, studying tissue regeneration and biomaterial engineering.

Texas A&M has a long history of success with the Goldwater Scholarship. Previous Goldwater Scholars include Daniel Miller ’13 (electrical engineering & applied mathematical science), Nicholas Mondrik ’15 (physics), Erica Gacasan ’16 (biomedical engineering), and Aaron Griffin ’16 (biochemistry & genetics). If you are a STEM student invested in research and would like to learn more about the Goldwater Scholarship, please contact National Fellowships coordinator Adelia Humme at arhumme@tamu.edu or visit our website.