Hello BioE! For the last three years I have been a member of the the Seelig lab for Synthetic Biology. In lab, I’m working on a project that’s trying to create a new molecular classifier diagnostic. We’re hoping to apply this classifier that’s built on gene expression data to actually work in the clinic for diagnostics with blood samples for any disease that shows differential gene expressions like cancer or autoimmune disorders.
As far as extracurriculars, I’m involved in Phi Sigma Rho; it’s an engineering sorority at the UW. I set up their outreach program and established a partnership with the Wallingford Boys and Girls Club during my freshman and sophomore years. Every Friday we would go to the Club and teach them a new STEM activity. We did everything from building mars structures, to learning about ultrasounds with equipment from BioE, to basic coding and non-newtonian fluid chemistry. It was a lot of fun and it is cool that the program is still going 3 years later.
On top of that, I’m also involved in BMES. I thought that BMES would give me the opportunity to tackle more large scale outreach initiatives in the local community. We really work to try to teach younger audiences what the potential of bioengineering is and what we do. Although bioengineered products are everywhere, a lot of people don’t actually know about it, so it’s exciting to share our knowledge with a younger generation.
I think that the most important thing about being in bioengineering is the potential impact that you can have on others, not just by the novel things we build or research, but also in the leadership roles we take on. We have the potential to change so much in our communities and I think we all need to take a moment to appreciate that. I hope that everyone who goes through BioE tries to use their research, academic and outreach experience to just be a good human being — which to me means to have integrity and humility, to care, to sometimes put yourself first, to sometimes do good for your community and hopefully, every day, make the world a little bit better than it was before.
One of the most important things I learned during university was letting go of my perfectionist personality and the need to always be the “best”.
Freshman year, I broke my back at the IMA in a rock climbing accident. It was halfway through spring quarter while I was taking all my prerequisite BioE classes and the next day I was in the ER. That quarter I did poorly, by my standards, in terms of grades. So poorly that I didn’t think that I’d be eligible to apply for BioE. I almost didn’t. I had a group of friends who sat me down and convinced me to just apply. I was completely shocked that summer when I got in, but grateful because it was what I wanted to do. That’s kind of the theme that BioE has taught me, that grades are important, but the community we have and who we are as people in it matter more.
Moving on to sophomore year when starting BioE core my health started to fall apart and I was diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder, Crohn’s. Through that quarter and the rest of the year that we did core, I was on a bunch of different medications trying to sort out my symptoms. Fatigue was the worst part. Sometimes I would go to class or to an outreach event and I would go home to sleep for hours. My friends really stepped up during those times by sharing notes and making sure that I took care of myself first.
Interestly enough, a lot of the medications that I was on or medical tests that I did, we were learning about in class around the same time. It was weird, but it was really good as an engineer because I was seeing things through the patient’s eyes. It got me to stop thinking about the little things, and thinking more about what BioE is as a whole and appreciating that the work we’re doing can impact someone’s life. It also kind of made me step back and reevaluate myself, especially in regards to how I appreciate my body, what I stress over and how I invest my time.
In school, we’re here to get good grades, to learn and to do well. It took me up until senior year however to realize that is only one small chunk of university. I have realized that no one ever asks you, or no one should ask you, about your GPA. Instead people will look at you for your kindness, your heart, your dedication. We’re all in this department because we’re worth something, but your worth isn’t just through the grades you’ve gotten. And that took me a long time to come to terms with, but by letting go I was able to finally do well in BioE and make the most of being at UW.