Savannah Lawton is a senior studying Bioengineering. After graduation, she will be traveling the world solo for eight months under the Bonderman Fellowship. Then, she plans to study neurosurgery.
“When I came to UW, everyone was telling me to get in a First-Year Interest Group (FIG), so I got into the FIG for BioE-intended students. I think the craze of wanting to get into BioE from that FIG group kind of took over my life. However, when I applied at the end of the year, I didn’t get in. I wasn’t going to apply again, until I started research in [Professor of Bioengineering] Buddy Ratner’s lab doing brain implant porous rod fabrication, and found that I really enjoyed it. I think that lab helped me realize why I actually wanted to study BioE, and not just because everyone else wanted to do it. So, I decided to apply again, and got in!
I would advise incoming freshmen to really do your research on what your major is about, because for BioE, I didn’t realize how heavy it was in electrical and mechanical engineering and light on biology. As much as it was a surprise to learn coding, mechanical and electrical engineering subjects, I think it was really cool to learn skills that I never thought I would have gotten. Like when I walking out of the first day in Dr. Neil’s signals and sensors class, asking myself, “What? How is the heart a vector…?” It was really educational to step out of my comfort zone and learn something from a different perspective.
I couldn’t imagine going through our classes without the cohort system. The camaraderie and friendships formed when going through core really helps to get through difficult classes. In office hours, everyone would be on the 3rd floor camped out for hours. You see your classmates every day and don’t even realize how close you are to them until you look back.
Something I wish I started earlier in my college experience is taking dance classes. My problem with extracurriculars is that I always feel guilty that I’m not doing something else, like homework. But when taking dance class, it’s part of the school day and I have to set aside time to do dance. It’s a really great experience to have that built into my day. I think it would have helped with stress to have those classes during core.
Right now my plans are to go to medical school for neurosurgery. My research right now is based around the brain – I think the brain is so cool. Your brain is you essentially, but there’s so much we don’t know about it. Since I’ve always been a really hands-on person, I think surgery would be a very natural fit for me. As far as why I want to be a doctor, obviously I want to help people, but I also like that it’s a career path where you’re constantly challenging yourself and learning new things. The way we treat diseases is always changing, and you’ll never be bored.
After I graduate, I will be traveling for eight months on my own through the Bonderman Fellowship! I will be going to Iceland, Mongolia, Nepal, Vietnam, Argentina, Peru and the Galapagos. I’m super excited for that! I always really wanted to travel but it’s never been feasible for me because traveling is so expensive. I’m a little worried – well, more like I am anticipating – to maybe have different career goals when I come back. I think seeing so much on the world might change my perspective on what I want to do, and I’m glad I’m given that opportunity to think about what you want to do. When you’re at school it’s just so busy, trying to get to the next step in your life, so this will be great to take a step back and ask what I want to do for the rest of my life.”