"I’m developing vaccines that better mimic pathogens and can activate the memory of the immune system as if it was the real thing, derived from harmless bacteria. These types of vaccines are very versatile, safe, and easy to produce. My particular project focuses on combining different immune activators on one molecule to enhance the immune response." Read more about Mariela Rivera-De Jesús
Caroline Waksmunski, B.S. '21
Cornell Engineering Q&A with BME undergraduate Caroline Waksmunski.
Hometown: Monroe Township, New Jersey
BME Degree Program: BS in biomedical engineering with concentration in Biomaterials & Drug Delivery (BMDD)
Lab affiliation/Adviser: Yadong Wang Laboratory
Why did you choose Cornell?
I first became interested in Cornell Engineering after a Cornell Engineering alum encouraged me to visit campus. The impressive academics of Cornell Engineering were, of course, a major draw, but for me the selling point of Cornell Engineering was the equal ratio of male and female students in the college. I was looking for a college that was going to be my home for four years, and I wanted someplace that I would be comfortable at. The opportunity for me to be surrounded by other women, by people who were like me, and to be treated as an equal was something that unfortunately was not offered at many of the other colleges that I was looking at. The emphasis that Cornell Engineering places on gender equality showed me that they care about more than academics - they care about the well-being of their students as well.
What made you choose BME as your major and what interests you most about it?
I realized at a young age that I wanted to be an engineer, and I figured out that I wanted to pursue biomedical engineering after I took biology in high school. I was fascinated by everything that I learned in high school biology and was overjoyed when I realized that pursuing a career in BME would allow me to combine my interests in biology and engineering with my passion for helping people! To me, the best part of BME is the incredible innovations that biomedical engineers develop to improve healthcare. Healthcare can always be improved, and biomedical engineers have the technical training and creativity to make these improvements.
How did you decide on your BME concentration?
I decided on a Biomaterials & Drug Delivery (BMDD) concentration because I am so excited by the potential for innovation within the field. There is a lot of cutting-edge research happening with biomaterials right now, and I think this research will radically change and improve healthcare. It is an incredible opportunity to participate in this rapidly evolving field!
What do you think are some of the most important skills you’ve learned while pursuing this major?
I have learned so much from my BME classes including how to be a critical thinker and have a strong work ethic. However, some of the most important skills that I’ve learned while pursuing BME I’ve learned outside of the classroom from interacting with my classmates. These skills include communication, teamwork, and leadership skills.
What are some of the skills you think someone should possess in order to do well in this major?
Creativity is a very important skill to possess in order to do well in BME. As BME students, we are constantly asked to solve problems in innovative ways, and we develop these solutions by thinking outside of the box. Critical thinking skills and a good work ethic are important as well. Finally, you need to have the confidence to speak up and share your ideas with your peers!
Describe any interests outside of or in relationship to your scholarship.
Cornell has so many options for extracurricular activities, and two of my favorites are The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and Guiding Eyes for the Blind (GEB)! I am very passionate about increasing the number of women in STEM, and through SWE I have had the opportunity to interact with many young girls from the Ithaca area and introduce them to STEM. I was recently elected Co-President of Cornell SWE, and I am so excited to use my position to further promote women in engineering! Another one of my passions is raising guide dogs for visually impaired individuals. I raised five puppies for The Seeing Eye before coming to Cornell and became a puppysitter for GEB once arriving at Cornell. SWE and GEB have tremendously enhanced my Cornell experience!
What stands out to you about your Cornell BME experience so far and why?
I have been working as a research assistant in the Yadong Wang Laboratory at Cornell since my freshman year, and this has been an invaluable learning experience for me. My lab work allows me to apply the information that I have learned in my classes in a real-life situation. This hands-on experience and the ability to work with Professor Wang and the talented graduate students in the lab has been one of my favorite parts of my Cornell BME experience so far!
What’s the next step for you?
My next step is to apply to the Cornell BME Masters of Engineering program! Once I complete my masters, I hope to work in industry or in a clinical setting.
Favorite quote that helps inspire you in your work/life?
“I didn’t come this far to only come this far.” - Unknown