Jonathan Mene is a undergraduate senior in bioengineering pursuing the research capstone track. For his capstone project, he is working on developing novel methods to study liver regeneration under Dr. Kelly Stevens. Outside of school, Jonathan has been involved in student government and is a self-taught pianist. After graduation, he plans to pursue a Ph.D..
“Back in high school I was what you call a ‘military brat’— my dad was in the military and I moved a lot. From 8-11th grade I moved and changed schools every year. I wanted to go to UW for college because it was like going back home to the Pacific Northwest. I liked biology and engineering, so I figured I’d try BioE. It wasn’t until orientation that I found out how competitive bioengineering was. I quickly became worried. I remember studying CHEM 142 two months before the first day because I had never taken a chemistry class and I was worried that I would be at a disadvantage. To make matters worse, on the first day of class, my professor said that 90% of students who hadn’t studied chemistry before had failed. I was constantly stressed about BioE admission, and even getting a 4.0 in that quarter didn’t relieve it.
Julio Pineda, the BioE peer mentor at the time, helped me so much during my freshman year. I had an interview for a research lab that went terribly. I was near a nervous breakdown when I went to Julio, and he really helped me out. I guess what I felt was that there are a million different things to apply to and be rejected from. Today when I get rejected, I don’t feel like I let myself down, but back then I was very self-conscious about who I was and wanted to be.
Thankfully, I got into BioE, but to the detriment of my mental health. I realized that college is a marathon, not a race. It’s like running a five minute mile but then realizing you have 25 more miles to go and feeling exhausted. I constantly wondered: ‘Can I sustain this?’. The answer was, ‘no’. I no longer worry about a perfect GPA since it’s not worth sacrificing my health.
I joined Kelly Stevens’ lab when it was new and got a GenOM Project scholarship for full time research. Doing biomedical research is especially fulfilling since I feel that I’m part of the broad effort to save and improve lives. I believe a PhD. in immunology or bioengineering will help me achieve my goal of improving health, which I was inspired to do after an internship at Seattle Genetics.
I also pursued an interest in were politics and public policy through the ASUW Senate. Seeing other pre-engineering majors’ mental health suffer from the competitive major system made mental health a big priority for me. While I was involved, the counseling center needed 2-3 weeks of advance before an appointment. This is difficult for someone who needs counselling but doesn’t immediately need a crisis hotline. I investigated what UW could offer and learned that they didn’t have enough resources for the demand. I was happy to contribute to an effort that increased mental health resources on campus by $200,000. I also contributed to a legislative directive against conversion therapy for LGBTQ minors in Washington state. There was even a Washington state bill that passed recently banning the practice, and I am so happy to had been part of the effort!
Overall, my experience in BioE has not only concerned physical health, but also mental health. My efforts to improve health will hopefully not only extend lives in the future, but also enhance the quality of those lives as well.”