Graduate Ambassador at Cornell University
Hometown: Bluffton, SC
Graduate Program: Biomedical Engineering, Ph.D
Anticipated Graduation Date: 2021
Institution: University of South Carolina - Columbia
Major: Biomedical Engineering
My motivation to become a biomedical engineer is deeply rooted in my younger brother’s diagnosis of Idiopathic Juvenile Arthritis, osteoporosis, and Crohn’s disease. I want to make a difference in the lives of children going through similar things as my brother; I want to help people combat diseases that hinder them from doing things they love. Pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering at the University of South Carolina provided me with an opportunity to make that happen. It was at USC that I endeavored to explore myself as a professional engineer. The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) afforded me the opportunity to travel to different regional and national conferences to network and fellowship with black professional engineers. During undergrad, I also expanded my horizons by doing research outside of my university. I had the opportunity to do research for two summers at the University of Maryland under Dr. Peter Kofinas in a polymer chemistry lab. It was these research opportunities that led to me graduating with Leadership Distinction in Research and further pursuing a PhD in biomedical engineering at Cornell. I chose to work under Dr. Marjolein van der Meulen and Dr. Ankur Singh on a project that intersects orthopedics, biomaterials, and drug delivery. While at Cornell. I have served on the e-board for the Black Graduate and Professional Student Association. I am also the Ryan Scholars Graduate Coordinator in the Diversity Programs in Engineering Office and serve as the Graduate Student Representative for the CU Chapter of the NSBE.
While an Ivy League education was attractive, the people really sold me on Cornell. I was amazed at how inclusive and family-oriented the BME faculty, staff, and students were. During my visit, I was paired with a current student who went above and beyond to make my visit amazing. She told me about resources for minority students and introduced me to staff in various diversity offices. I was also impressed by the caliber of research being conducted. All these things assured me that I would be in a supportive and collaborative environment which is exactly what I wanted and needed. Furthermore, being awarded the Sloan/Colman Fellowship prior to coming to Cornell played a big part in my decision to attend. This fellowship not only guaranteed funding for three years, but also would also provide me with professional/academic development funds and programming. By receiving this fellowship, I knew I would have the extra support that I would need as a minority student in STEM which was reassuring when making my decision.
My research combines the three exciting fields of orthopedics, biomaterials, and drug delivery. Specifically, the focus of my research is on osteoarthritis (OA) and understanding the role of the immune response in OA. My research will create new knowledge of the role of the immune response associated with inflammation in the knee joint allowing for new targets for therapy. The goal is to apply this knowledge to create hydrogels, polymer networks that act as drug delivery carriers, to deliver therapeutics to the knee joint to improve OA treatment.
My biggest piece of advice for students exploring graduate school is ask any and every question you have about the program. Depending on the graduate degree and program, you will be spending the next few years at the institution you choose. You want to make sure you enjoy all aspects of your school - program, department, PI, lab space, and location. You want to make sure it is an environment you will strive in and that you have completely explored your options. Keep an open mind, think of what is of concern to you, and remember that you are the who that school is trying to recruit.