I found out that acceptance packets went out for the Lehigh class of 2018 went out earlier this week. I got really nostalgic at first and thought about how excited I was when I got my acceptance letter – it was like I finally felt like I was an adult and I was moving on to bigger and better things in the world. Then it hit me how that letter came to me two years ago and yet it feels like it was just the other month.
I think I’m starting to understand what my mom was always telling me that the older you get the faster time seems to go. Already, I’m almost half way through my undergraduate career. It’s so easy to think that it hasn’t been that much time and I still have so much to learn and do. While that is true, if I actually go and think back, I have learned more about studies and life that I ever thought could be possible in two years.
My high school was pretty much a bubble, where I thought that all I had to do was get good grades, do some extra curricular activities, and that was it. While Lehigh could definitely be argued to be its own little bubble, the amount of opportunities to learn and explore yourself and the world around you are infinite. This summer, I will be participating in research for the first time — half way across the world no less! at Universiti Teknologi Petronas in Malaysia. I don’t think when I got my acceptance letter that I ever thought I would be capable of embarking on an adventure such as this, and some days I still can’t believe it. But it’s things like this that really make me appreciate how many this school offers its students, and how many more opportunities I will be able to take advantage of! It’s an incredibly exciting, and slightly terrifying, prospect that I can’t wait to explore!
Last Friday, I had the pleasure of volunteering through the Society of Women Engineering to participate in the annual CHOICES program. Every year, Lehigh invites middle school girls potentially interested in science or engineering to the mountaintop campus where for a whole day we do fun experiments. I worked with the program last year and I just loved seeing the students getting excited about thinking about STEM fields, or just watching them get excited about science in general. Last year, I was able to volunteer in the morning and helped out with some of the smaller experiments and ice breakers but unfortunately had to leave for lab before the day’s grand finale project – the egg drop. This year, I had a test in the morning, so I was finally able to experience the egg drop first hand.
The girls were all broken up into teams still from the morning. They were given $12 to buy materials and given a half hour to come up with a design proposal for the best way to cushion an egg from a 30 foot drop off the side of the Wood Dining Hall. The girls who I were working with got extremely into the project — they may have only been in eighth grade but they were completely into the design process. Their ideas were extremely well thought out and they even were able to bargain a little bit when buying materials. It paid off, because their project won for originality and their egg didn’t break on it’s fall! Meanwhile, I got to watch these girls, who were all from different middle schools and had just met that morning, work together, bond, and ask for each others phone numbers to stay in touch. It was a truly rewarding experience and I can’t wait to volunteer with the program next year!
Whether you’re checking the news or social media, it’s clear that bioengineering advancements have been on the rise over the last few years. From 3-D printing liver and eye cells to robotic arms controlled by your nervous system – some of these advancements seem more and more like something out of an H.G Wells novel than from Science Weekly.
Something that recently caught my eye while browsing through my Facebook was a National Geographic video about a “skin gun” which used patient’s stem cells to create an instant skin graft for affected areas such as burns. The results from their first patient, showed in the video, were pretty convincing. If the skin gun were to become commercialized, it could revolutionize how we dealt with burn victims or degenerate skin diseases. Here’s the link to the full video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXO_ApjKPaI
Things like this are why I want to become a bioengineer. I want to be the person who is working on all the cutting-edge, science-fiction esque studies and maybe make something as cool and as helpful like a skin gun. I’m definitely hoping that it will be somewhere in my future!
When temperature’s peaked at around 48 degrees this Saturday, it was pretty common to see people running around in shorts or students with their room windows open to enjoy the “beautiful weather” – a term that is not normally used when describing temperatures that are just 16 degrees above freezing. But when compared to the brutal, 0-20 degree weather that we have been experiencing the last month and a half, 48 truly does seem like paradise.
It’s very clear that this winter has been a crazy one for anyone living in the Lehigh Valley area – the temperatures have been frigid and the amount of snow that has fallen on Lehigh’s campus can be counted in inches that reach far into the double digits. According to an article that showed up on Lehigh’s portal today, there has been 66.7 total inches of snowfall this year. Let me say that again: 66.7 inches of snow. The average American woman is about 64 inches, and the total snow on Lehigh’s campus could still go over her head.
The article goes on to say that around 1500 tons of salt have been used clear the roadways this year around Lehigh. Assuming my math is right, that’s equivalent to about 200 elephants. That is absolutely insane.
The only good things that have come out of all this snow is that there have been 3 snow days this year, more than I have ever had since high school. Also, all this snow has proved that no matter what, Lehigh’s campus can look gorgeous even in horrendous weather conditions.
This weekend, I learned a valuable lesson about procrastinating: Don’t do it.
Early last week I realized that I had the final portion of a project for Mech due on Monday which I hadn’t begun to start yet. The project was to code a program in Matlab to solve for the displacements and stress in a bar with a decreasing circular radius.
Even though my Matlab skills were pretty rusty – I hadn’t coded in it since first semester freshman year- I figured the project couldn’t be too bad and I could start it Saturday.
At 3am on Monday morning, as I put the final touches on my written report I realized that yes, the project had been that bad. I probably shouldn’t have procrastinated so long.
Despite the long hours in the library this weekend, I was proud of myself for not giving up on this project. Even when my code was printing out all negative number in stead of positive ones and giving me every error under the sun, I was able to work through it and finish with all the right answers. There is no better feeling than working your butt of on something and having it all work out, I’ve decided. The lack of sleep thing, though, was not a great feeling and it means that the next mech project will not be something I start two days before it is due.
29 hours in the library later, I realized that
So far, all of the labs I have ever encountered in high school and college have been nothing more than proving laws that already exist or showing us how to do a specific experiment, such as a general titration or how to hook up a circuit to measure resistance. Sure, these labs are important, but I have never found them to be too thrilling or exciting.
But this year in bioengineering 210 we will be using machines to calculate different physiological processes. Maybe it’s just because I love my major, but I think that hooking up electrodes to your lab partner’s arms to measure the electrical pulses in their muscles is really, really cool. I got to see the relationships between how hard I can clench my arm to how much electrical signal is produced and compare the results between my dominant arm and non-dominant arm. Then, in this week’s lab, we observed how after fatigue affects the muscles after you hold something for a long period of time.
The results looked something like this:
You can clearly see where the muscles started to lose their energy after keeping the reader clenched for a long time. All in all, a very cool lab and I can’t wait to see what else there is in store!
I talked a bit before about how we learned about artificial organs in class a few weeks ago, but I recently stumbled across an article that made me appreciate just how relevant my studies, and specifically my bioengineering class, are to the present day research field.
The article briefly talks about how a 3D printer has been used to create a liver which can survive up to 40 days! Now, because the article didn’t go into too much depth I asked my professor about how creating a liver with a printer was even feasible. She explained that the printer would be used to create a sort of scaffold for the stem cells to adhere and grow on to create a liver-shape.
With all the news and talk about 3D printers being able to mass produce everything from guns to happy meals, I am extremely excited and curious to see how they will continue to permeate all areas of production in the United States, especially now the biomedical field. Who knows, maybe there will be a day where cells can be mass produced with the push of a button, but for now, the fact that these pieces of technology can be used in such an advanced way truly blows my mind. Truly can’t wait to see what the future might hold out there!