Luis Palafox at the windmills of the La Mancha region in Consuegra, Spain, about 80 miles outside of central Madrid.
Luis Palafox is a senior biomedical engineering major, and a current Gilman scholar studying abroad in Spain. Below, he answers questions about the scholarship application process and his study abroad experience so far.
UArk BME: Where are you from? How far along are you in your studies at the U of A?
Palafox: I am from Fort Smith, Arkansas; it is my hometown and I went to high school there (go Northside Grizzlies!) I completed 2 years of undergraduate study at the University of Arkansas Fort Smith prior to transferring to the main U of A campus in Fayetteville. I completed my junior year here before leaving to study abroad and I am now a senior, currently in my 4th year of undergraduate study.
UArk BME: When/how did you first hear about the Gilman Scholarship?
Palafox: I first heard about it from Bryan Hill when he made a presentation in my course “Intro to Biomedical Engineering,” which Dr. Raj Rao was teaching at the time (fall 2016). Bryan presented new study abroad options for BME students—there was an opportunity to go out of the country for transferable credits in Australia, Denmark, or Spain. Towards the end of the presentation he discussed funding options such as saving personal money, going to nearby local churches for possible scholarships, setting up a GoFundMe, applying for bank loans, using FAFSA, applying for UArk scholarships like the Johnetta Cross Brazzell Award or a College of Engineering travel grant, and applying for outside scholarships like the Gilman Scholarship.
Nasya Sturdivant is a doctoral student in biomedical engineering here at the U of A. She is presently at work building an effective synthetic blood-brain barrier that will help improve the treatment of traumatic brain injuries.
UArk BME: Did you always know you wanted to study biomedical engineering?
Sturdivant: I didn’t know I wanted to study biomedical engineering until my junior year in undergrad. A generation ago, the field of biomedical engineering wasn’t widespread. So it wasn’t a subject I grew up wanting to study. I did, however, know I wanted to be in a life sciences field and while in high school I gained interest in engineering and design. Researching a combination of the two is when I began to learn more about the emerging field of biomedical engineering.
UArk BME: You received your undergraduate degree from North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, NC. What made you choose the University of Arkansas for graduate school?
Sturdivant: The Department of Engineering at the U of A was very new when I joined. The exciting research interests of the faculty along with the extreme potential for growth of the department was a huge draw for me. I also had the opportunity to visit the university and the department before applying and I really meshed with Dr. Balachandran, my current advisor.
Khang in the lab
Alex Khang graduated in 2016 with an honors degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Arkansas. He is presently a PhD student in biomedical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, and was recently awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship for the upcoming academic year.
UArk BME: When you first arrived at the U of A, did you know what you wanted to study?
Khang: I did not know exactly what I wanted to study but I knew that math and science were my strongest areas so I considered majoring in an engineering discipline. Biomedical Engineering stood out to me amongst the rest of the engineering majors at the University of Arkansas due to its dedication to bettering the state of human health.
Johnson delivers a presentation on her summer research.
Dymonn Johnson is a Jackson State University student studying biology who originally hails from East Saint Louis, Illinois. This past summer, she worked in the labs of Drs. Morten and Hanna Jensen along with U of A graduate students, undergrads, and several Brazilian students participating in the Summer Research Internship program. Below, she answers questions on the nature, scope, and challenges of her summer research, and shares how her goals have shifted moving forward.
UArk BME: What were the goals of your research project?
Johnson: The research goals this summer were to cell culture cardiomyocytes, heart muscle cells, and to create a cardiac cell culture. After I am gone, the cardiomyocytes will be placed inside the cardiac cell culture and ischemia will be induced at will, which means to create a heart attack in vitro.
Greening in the Translational Biophotonics & Imaging Lab.
Gage Greening is a PhD student in the Biomedical Engineering Department at the University of Arkansas. He is part of the research team in Dr. Timothy Muldoon‘s Translational Biophotonics & Imaging Lab.
UArk BME: You mentioned in a 2014 piece in A+, the Honors College magazine, that you’ve, “always had a diverse set of interests, including the life sciences, math, athletics, and art, especially sketching and filmmaking.” How does being a biomedical engineer allow you to tap into some of these passions?
Greening: I think biomedical engineers need to have a diverse set of interests and skills to be successful. Biomedical engineering requires a combination of skills to think about medical problems in new ways. An understanding of life science is vital to knowing which problems are worth spending time to solve. Art and sketching are important for visually communicating with your colleagues through engineering sketches. In the design phase, design sketches are an engineer’s best friend. Math, logic, engineering, programming, and troubleshooting all come into play in my research. Seeing your finished project and presenting this project through conferences, presentations, or publications is tremendously satisfying because of all the hard work that goes into it. The many phases of a biomedical engineering research project encompass many of my passions, and that’s why I love going to work each day.
Ederle in the Mechanobiology & Soft Materials Lab.
Amanda Ederle is a student in the Biomedical Engineering Department at the University of Arkansas. She works under Dr. Kartik Balachandran in the Mechanobiology & Soft Materials Laboratory, and was recently awarded a SURF grant to continue her research work.
UArk BME: When you first arrived at the U. of A. as an Honors College Fellow, did you know what you wanted to study?
Ederle: I am actually a Public Health major, but I am doing biomedical engineering research for my Honors Thesis. I think my situation exhibits one of the great aspects of the Honors College. I can explore my diverse interests and incorporate all of them into my undergraduate education. I was originally drawn to public health because I was interested in exploring the broad perspective of medicine and health. I think that it is important for me to study public health because of the new focus on prevention techniques in the clinical medicine world; as a future physician, my public health background will provide me with the tools to examine health from a holistic perspective, originating as much from social aspects as genetic ones. However, though I love my public health courses, I found that I missed certain aspects of the sciences. I began to look at the research in the hard sciences on the U. of A.’s website, and Dr. Balachandran’s research really stood out to me. I reached out to Dr. B to express my interest, and the rest is history!