Alyssa is an undergraduate senior in BioE, and is double-majoring in computer engineering. She is working in a biomechanics lab led by Dr. William Ledoux, where she investigates how certain joints are affected before and after ankle replacement surgery. She also is part of the Right Brain Campaign and volunteers at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Learn more about her experiences at UW and how she balances all of her activities.

“During my first two years of college, I was gung-ho on prosthetic design and staying in bioengineering, but at the end of sophomore year, I decided I wanted to be pre-med. I took all of the pre-med classes, joined the Alpha Epsilon Delta honor society, and shadowed doctors because I already felt behind. At the end of junior year, I started thinking about my priorities in life, like when I want to settle down and not accumulating debt from med school. I realized that , I wasn’t sure that’s exactly what I wanted to do and if it’s worth all of that. It wasn’t until I took CSE 142 that I realized I just love programming, and when I applied to computer engineering in summer, I let that be the determiner–if I got in then I’d go for it, and if I didn’t, I’d stay on the pre-med route. Thankfully, I got in.

I TA’ed for BIOEN 215 last quarter. I’d never taught before, and in class, you have to have some control over the situation and have everyone’s respect while making them feel like you’re also on their side. Working with students it’s like, I’m their TA and I’m the one who grades their papers, but I’m their friend and I want to help them out. I had a really good experience with one student–he came to my office hours every single week. He wouldn’t come to just work on homework, he would come and ask me for life advice which was really awesome. He ended up emailing me later this quarter just to catch up and to tell me the impact I had on him. It was the most rewarding thing. I feel like I learned a lot about myself from him always coming for advice, and I learned how to lead and how to listen to other students needs.

How do I balance everything? My planner is my best friend, I do not go anywhere without that thing and it’s so rewarding when you check everything off. I organize everything that I have to do in time sequence, but no matter how much I have to do, I set a cutoff time in my head to prevent myself from going too crazy. Otherwise you’ll just keep working forever. I’ve learned now by senior year that it’s okay if you don’t do everything you planned by the end of the week, and you have to put a stopping time to focus on your mental health for a little bit. I will always take an hour or so at the end of the night to do something fun, whether it’s watching Netflix or hanging out with friends. It’s important to do those other things, even if it makes you more busy.

The two most important things I learned from college are not even from the classroom, which is kind of ironic. The first one is that I learned how to make friends and I learned what values I really had when choosing friends. I came from a really small high school, where my peer group was limited, so I thought I had a lot in common with these people. Then I came to such a big school with so many people, and I could really focus on what I value and what kind of people I wanted to have around me. The second thing is that again coming from a small town, I was raised having a lot of different values and beliefs. Then I came to college and was exposed to a wide variety of ideas, and there are so many opportunities to learn about yourself, such as your stance on political issues and religion. I think these things are way more important than anything you’re going to learn in a classroom.”