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Eight years ago, I was a plastic surgeon – then again, anyone could say that after watching an entire season of Dr. 90210.
My mother was my main patient, with the tummy tuck being her favorite procedure. Instead of a scalpel, my most faithful tool was a purple Crayola marker. The process of performing a tummy tuck is an exact science: you must remove the exact amount of excess skin, tighten the abdominal muscles to the exact degree, and suture the incision with exact tightness. The precision and tedium required of a surgeon only satisfied me, feeding my perfectionist tendencies. Just as I thought that I was going to be the next Dr. Robert Rey, everything changed.
The summer prior to sixth grade, I had the privilege of attending the Miami PREP Summer Program at Florida International University (FIU), which is a STEM-focused program for students in elementary and middle school. My favorite course was Introduction to Engineering (IE). In IE, the teacher, Ms. Sara Zapata, hosted a plethora of guest speakers – all engineers. My favorite speaker was Ms. Ranu Jung, Ph.D.: the chair of FIU’s Department of Biomedical Engineering. She defined biomedical engineering as “the marriage of mathematics and medicine,” even showing the IE class research projects that the Department of Biomedical Engineering was working on.
It was in that moment that I made a life-changing connection: Dr. Ranu Jung’s words and my older brother’s cardiac arrest the previous year. Biomedical engineers played a crucial role in his survival. Hence, I realized that biomedical engineering was much more than “the marriage of mathematics and medicine.” It is having the power to save lives through the medical knowledge required of doctors and the problem-solving skills required of engineers.
Nonetheless, there was one crucial aspect of biomedical engineering that I had not been exposed to: design. However, last summer, I occasionally went with my older brother to his job as a project engineer at HEICO Aerospace (also known as Jet Avion) – a company based in Hollywood, FL that “designs, manufactures, and sells aerospace-related products and services throughout the world.” In my excursions to Jet Avion, Carlos showed me how he works with Autodesk Inventor (an industry-standard Computer Aided Design program) in designing a plethora of aircraft engine and non-engine mechanical devices, like diaphragms and piston rings.
Yale’s Department of Biomedical Engineering offers me the opportunity to better understand the human body from the perspective of an engineer. In particular, I am eager to take advantage of the cutting-edge research opportunities offered in Tissue Engineering – my area of interest. For instance, instead of merely learning about coronary bypasses in a textbook, I could work with Dr. Laura Niklason in “developing engineered arteries for coronary bypass procedures.” Essentially, Yale’s School of Engineering and Applied Science will provide me an education that will simultaneously give me the mind of a doctor and an engineer, leading me to success in clinical and industrial environments.
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