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My Future Career: A Biomedical Engineering PhD Graduate Program

Most scientists are curious, but only some scientists work toward application, and this is where my professional intentions lie. I am a scientist motivated by problems in modern healthcare. I look to identify these issues and use science, engineering, and technology to research and develop innovative solutions. I would like to further develop myself as a scientist through enrollment in Stanford University’s biomedical engineering PhD graduate program.

Stanford is a leading institution in translational biomedical research, which is highly interdisciplinary. This collaboration of scientists, engineers, and clinicians can result in the rapid production of tools, devices, techniques, and procedures to improve healthcare. To be successful in this endeavor, an individual must have aptitude for his or her field and the abilities to conduct research, collaborate with other fields, and identify problems or opportunities. My academic and professional career has been a diverse mix of bioengineering and entrepreneurship. These experiences have allowed me to develop and practice the aforementioned skills essential for translational biomedical research.

I graduated from Washington State University (WSU) in May 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Bioengineering. During my undergraduate career, I displayed a high aptitude in the field of bioengineering. I received several scholarships and awards. The most notable were those from the WSU College of Engineering and Architecture: Junior Bioengineer of the Year and Bioengineering Teaching Assistant of the Year. This shows that I can both learn and communicate in my field. I believe this is a strong indicator that I can help progress the field of bioengineering in my current research and in the future.

Since obtaining my degree, I’ve been working at my alma mater’s Center for Muscle Biology, where I’ve been gaining substantial research experience. We are conducting a comparative study on the in-situ muscle mechanics of wild type mice versus the P448L limb girdle muscular dystrophy 2I (LGMD2i) mouse model. Under the guidance of Dr. Dan Rodgers, associate professor of the Department of Animal Sciences and director of the Washington Center for Muscle Biology, and Dr. David Lin, associate professor of the School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, I’ve designed and conducted the experiments. We use a dual-control force and length transducer to make measurements on surgically isolated hind limb muscles. From this, we can deduce important force, length, and velocity relationships of the muscles, which are indicators of muscle architecture and kinetics. As a scientist, I’ve had to learn how to handle, administer anesthesia to, and perform surgery on live animals. As an engineer, I’ve had to practice instrumentation, data analysis, and computational programming. The project is still young, so we do not have any publications or submissions yet. However, I have been successful in creating a novel technique for stabilizing and testing the medial gastrocnemius muscle of a mouse in-situ. This appointment has confirmed both my desire and ability to conduct research.

Over the past couple years, I have participated in some significant projects that display my abilities to identify problems or opportunities and then collaborate with multiple fields to develop a solution. The first example was my bioengineering senior design project. Our group identified the persistent occurrence of pressure ulcers in healthcare settings, designed a solution, wrote a business plan, and created a scaled-down prototype. We worked with doctors, nurses, medical-device suppliers, and medical-device research professionals to create our product. Our solution was a reactive medical support surface that would sense the pressure distribution across a patient’s body and change contour to optimally redistribute pressure. Our system utilized sensors, pneumatics, electrical circuitry, and a microcontroller. As team leader, I had a great influence on the overall direction of the project. However, I also paid attention to the minute details, as I was heavily involved in the technical development of the product and in constructing our team’s financial documents. We won two WSU poster competitions with this project.

The second notable project was my involvement in the WSU Global Case Competition. In 2014, this competition challenged teams of graduate and undergraduate students to solve a global issue: the high arsenic concentrations in Bangladesh drinking water. We assembled a diverse team, representing fields ranging from astrobiology to pathology. Together, we created a solution that addressed the problem from all viewpoints: social, financial, technical, and implementation. The judges awarded us first place out of over 20 teams. We will be traveling to Bangladesh in late November to see the problem firsthand, collaborate with local professionals, and determine the plan’s feasibility.

These experiences have had a dramatic impact on my life goals. My entrepreneurial experiences have also shaped me—in particular, my involvement with a startup company that focused on commercializing academic innovations. I now recognize that I am passionate about solving healthcare-related issues. The research alone is not sufficient, however. My true desire is to identify, refine, and quantify a problem and then create a novel solution. I want to see the research of the lab reach the bedside of the patient. Therefore, my ultimate career goal is to research and develop medical devices. To do this successfully, I need to perfect my skills as a researcher. I believe the best way to do this is through the completion of the bioengineering PhD graduate program at Stanford University.

If admitted into your program, I would like to research and develop a medical device, tool, technique, or procedure that improves healthcare standards. An ideal project for me would incorporate instrumentation, computational mathematics, mathematical modeling, and prototype efficacy testing. Dr. Yock’s clinical research, Dr. Boahen’s physiological modeling with integrated circuits, and Dr. Quake’s development of precision measurement techniques all interest me greatly. I find the research of these faculty, and others at Stanford University, very attractive because their work can change the way we practice medicine.

Stanford University would be the ideal place for me to complete a PhD geared toward applied bioengineering and translational biomedical research. Stanford’s Bio X program and Coulter Translational Research Partnership are just two examples of how Stanford’s institutional mission is aligned with my personal goals. Furthermore, Stanford is the epitome of an entrepreneurial environment, a setting in which I would thrive. With both a top bioengineering program and a top medical school on campus, I see endless potential for collaboration between research and healthcare. I believe that I could contribute greatly to Stanford’s tradition of innovative biomedical research.

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