Track and Biomed: 8 Questions for Katrina Robinson, Student Athlete

Katrina Robinson is an undergraduate student of biomedical engineering and also a track-and-field athlete. Below she discusses cross-country success, academic drive, and shares advice for similarly ambitious students.

BME: When did you first become interested in biomedical engineering?

Robinson: To be completely honest, not until September last year. I came into college unsure about what exactly I wanted to study, but I knew that I really enjoyed science classes and that my strongest classes were ones involving critical thinking. After settling in during the fall and thinking a lot about what was right for me, I decided that biomedical engineering would be perfect. It was the perfect blend of science and math and becoming an engineer really excited me. It also opens up doors into the health field which I have always been very interested in.

BME: Why the University of Arkansas?

Robinson: Growing up as a track runner in Australia, I always knew that I wanted to pursue my passion for running at an American college. The sport is so much bigger here than at home and the opportunity to run on scholarship was also one that I couldn’t pass up. The University of Arkansas has such a renowned track program and when I took a visit here during my senior year I fell in love with the campus and fit right in with the team.

BME: What classes or labs have you enjoyed most? 

Robinson: I have really enjoyed taking University Physics 1 this semester because I find physics to be such a fascinating subject. I like how tangible the science is and the fact that you are learning about concepts that you encounter in everyday life. I also loved taking the Principles of Biology class last semester because I find it interesting learning about the inner workings of the body.

BME: How do you balance being a student athlete and a biomedical engineering student?

Robinson: I developed a lot of good habits in high school which I have been able to carry with me into college. It can definitely be tough trying to balance a full course load while also fitting in hours of practice each day and having to miss a lot of school days travelling to meets, but I always try to plan out my week in advance to figure out the best times to study. I try to set aside small but consistent study sessions throughout the week instead of trying to cram it all in at one time, because I find this helps eliminate stress and gives me time each day to do other things I enjoy.

BME: Any advice for other student athletes who are studying biomedical engineering at the U of A? 

Robinson: Classes can get stressful at times, so my advice is to remember why you are studying biomedical engineering in the first place. It is such a fascinating program that can lead to so many exciting careers, and reminding myself of this always helps motivate me when I feel weighed down with exams and homework. My other piece of advice (which is easier said than done) is to complete homework and start studying for tests as early as possible. This will make every course seem a lot more manageable and will eliminate a lot of stress.

BME: Do you feel that your success as an athlete and a biomedical engineering student complement each other? Where do you think this ambition comes from?

Robinson: I think they definitely complement each other because both require a lot of hard work and commitment. Just like studying, running each day can be tough and there are definitely days when a hard workout is the last thing I feel like doing. However, learning to put in the hard work consistently each day is what has helped me achieve my best results both on the track and in the classroom. I also find that running is a great way to destress when school feels overwhelming and it always helps me clear my mind. I have always been very ambitious which I have been able to apply to all aspects of my life.

BME: Any plans after graduation?

Robinson: After graduating, I plan to keep running and to hopefully be competitive at an Olympic Games. I don’t have any specific academic plans yet, but as I continue with my degree and explore the different aspects of biomedical engineering, I hope this will become clearer.

BME: What has been your proudest moment thus far in college? 

Robinson: My proudest moment was being named SEC Freshmen of the Year during cross country season and also placing second at the cross-country Pre-Nationals in Wisconsin in a strong field.




State and National Awards Reception: Biomedical Engineering Recipients

Pictured above: Department Head, Raj Rao, with Biomedical Engineering students and mentors.

University of Arkansas’ State and National Awards Reception is held yearly at the end of the spring semester and commemorates the academic achievements of students in various departments. The Biomedical Engineering Department claimed several notable awards for both students and the department overall. Below is a list of the recipients and their mentors.

  • The Biomedical Engineering Department won the 2019 Departmental Gold Medal, received by Department Head, Raj Rao.
  • Harrison Dean won the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship from the American Heart Association, mentored by Heather Walker.
  • Alaa Abdelgawad was recognized for her Student Travel Award from the Biomedical Engineering Society, mentored by Narasimhan Rajaram.
  • Smit Patel was awarded the Hagan Scholarship, mentored by Kartik Balachandran and Charles Robinson.
  • Mason Buele was recognized as an Outstanding Chapter officer by the National Biomedical Honor Society, mentored by Michelle Kim.
  • Various students won the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates, including Olga Brazhkina, Jarrod Eisma, Jessica Orton, Jack West, and Lucy Woodbury. They were mentored by Morten Jensen, Connie Lamm, Jamie Hestekin, Bryan Hill, and Kyle Quinn, respectively.

  • Jessica Orton was also awarded the Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), mentored by Jamie Hestekin.
  • Harrison Dean was also recognized for his acceptance into Texas A&M College of Medicine Summer Research Program, mentored by Heather Walker.
  • Samia Ismail was awarded the Truman Scholarship, mentored by Nicole Clowney.
  • Smit Patel was also recognized for his acceptance into the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Summer Undergraduate Research Program, mentored by Kartik Balachandran.
  • Andre Figueroa won the Upstate Medical University Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, also mentored by Kartik Balachandran.
  • Alaa Abdelgawad was also awarded the UT Health San Antonio Summer Research Fellowship, mentored by Narasimhan Rajaram.
  • Gianna Busch was recognized for her acceptance at Vanderbilt Biophotonics Center Summer Research Program, mentored by Kyle Quinn.


Alexandra Gutierrez Reports: Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Conference

Engineering competition at the RLDC 2019. The winners were University of Arkansas, University of Texas at Austin and University of Texas at Arlington.

Alexandra Gutierrez is an undergraduate studying biomedical engineering. Below, she recounts her experiences at the Regional Leadership Development Conference held by the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

My name is Alexandra Gutierrez, I am a senior biomedical engineering student and it was not until my junior year that I realized the importance of being involved with the different RSO on campus. I am currently part of the Panamanian Student Organization (PSO), American Indian Society of Sciences and Engineering (AISES), and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE).

 In particular, I would like to share my experience at Regional Leadership Development Conference (RLDC) 2019, organized by SHPE and held at St. Mary’s University, University of Texas in San Antonio, TX. Soaring for success was the Conference’s main theme. At this conference, not only was I exposed to meeting new people, participating in an engineering competition, a protagonist of the multiple workshops held by SHPE to develop leadership skills, and part of a career fair for networking opportunities, but also RLDC participants were fully inspired to impact the community through STEM as well as guided by experienced leaders. At this conference, there were many interesting workshops, but the most relevant workshop sessions for me were:  “SHPEOLOGY” and “Hacking Your Professional Brand While Being Authentic”. “SHPEOLOGY” was conducted by Monique Herrera, the corporate director of relations and marketing of SHPE. In SHPEOLOGY, she explained that the Hispanic community in the workplace is reduced because there is a lack of knowledge from Hispanic people about the professional and leadership opportunities that are offered for Hispanics every year. Thus, it is important for more Hispanics to join this “Familia”, as she called it. Here, they can access these opportunities more easily. Raising awareness about the values and diversity Latinos to bring to places, such as the workplace and academia, might be an effective solution to diverse problems this society faces. With this solution, she invites every Hispanic to strive for the best and never give up while joining this organization to spread the word.


The University of Arkansas chapter was recognized as the most improved chapter in the region.


The other workshop was named: “Hacking Your Professional Brand While Being Authentic”, Rodney Tobares, the speaker from the Facebook Company. His message was based on building a community to bring more Latinos/Hispanics closer together through technology. During his years at the industry, he relied on the power of becoming his own brand, and he encourages everyone to do the same. Collectivism, sympathy, respect, cultural identity, fatalism, and paternalism have been the Latino cultural strips from which he has used to share his Hispanic heritage. He mentioned that we need to have defined steps in order to reach our goals. He suggested a platform called “Piazza”, which is designed to connect professionals and academia. The career fair was also an important component of this conference. Here, Hispanics were able to interact with professionals from a variety of companies, give their elevator pitch, and be led by professionals to their possible industry interests as well as academic paths.

Overall, these workshops brought more awareness to me and my desire to invite everyone to join this society while in college. I am thankful for having had the support from the BME department. Hispanics and any individual can benefit from events like this conference, and others such as the National conference coming in the fall of this year. Come and be part of our Familia!