Four years ago I was thrilled by the idea of learning tools that would help me design medical technology. Though I did not have a clear idea of what I wanted to do, I knew I wanted to make an impact on people’s lives and improve healthcare in someway. Becoming a Grand Challenge Scholar customized my experience at ASU and allowed me to consolidate and solidify my career path as a biomedical engineer. Working towards a clear goal - reverse engineering the brain - has opened my perspective to do things I had never envisioned myself doing.
Becoming an undergraduate researcher at the Human Mobility Lab allowed me to experience research in a unique way. I explored a specific research question - what is the role of the startle reflex in finger movement planning and execution - and developed an experimental protocol to test our hypothesis. After working for almost two years on this project, I am currently finalizing my honors thesis which will be submitted for a journal publication. Having the support of programs like the GCSP and FURI has been key to my success and have allowed me to present my research at national conferences. I have received invaluable mentorship from Dr. Honeycutt and other students in lab. Thanks to these experiences, I was able to further my research at MIT and explore other areas of rehabilitation. Research has taught me the value of teamwork, curiosity and communication. My research experiences have uniquely molded my future plans to pursue a PhD in biomedical engineering.
The GCSP has an emphasis on interdisciplinary work. Through classes like FSE 150: Grand Challenges for Engineers and SOC 334: Technology and Society, I gained a broader perspective of not only health challenges, but other challenges like sustainability, energy and security. I developed my critical thinking on the way we interact with technology to communicate and make our lives easier. In the movement sciences and rehabilitation area, there has been a gap as new technology has been implemented in a clinical setting. The lack of interdisciplinary work has not fully allowed creations that truly make a change in people’s daily life. This is why I have decided to pursue an engineering degree in combination with a Physical Therapy clinical degree. By collaborating with clinicians, scientist and engineers the impact of technology can be much more powerful.
Learning more about global health and studying abroad in London, Dublin and Edinburgh have helped me develop a global perspective on how society works. Each region and population of the world has unique needs that might or might not be solved with existing tools; sometimes these existing tools need to be adapted to be successfully implemented. I also learned that it is not just about solving challenges in our society, but rather understanding the origin of these challenges. Having a global perspective means we must enjoy learning about other cultures and the root of the challenges they face.
Gaining a global perspective is also essential to become the entrepreneur of an idea. As engineers, we need confidence and self-motivation when taking risks, which can spark an idea and transform it into reality. Taking classes like Business and Industrial Engineering and Entrepreneurship for Engineers broadened my business background and allowed me to put these concepts into practice as part of team that developed Handy Project, a website to network with engineering professionals and gain hand-on experience in engineering projects. In addition, I was able to apply my business background in my senior design capstone project, which consists of a wearable device for gait rehabilitation for individuals with Parkinson’s disease.
Reflecting on the beginning of my journey in college, I would not be here if it wasn’t for the support of mentors and other students around me. As engineers, we are trained to work as team members in order to impact our society. One of the most rewarding experiences was sharing my college experience with younger students as part of Fulton Ambassadors and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. Motivating younger students from diverse backgrounds to pursue a career in engineering and science is key to tackle the Grand Challenges in a creative and innovative way. My involvement in these organizations allowed me to give back to my community and gained valuable leadership skills. Close to graduation, I can say that though I might not know it all, I feel ready to make a change and never stop learning. I feel ready to face the grand challenges we need to overcome and impact those around me.