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!


Tori Marie Stover Attends Women in the Workforce Annual Conference

Pictured above: UAF engineering staff at Women in the Workforce Annual Conference on March 6, 2019 in Bentonville, AR

As part of Women’s History Month, Tori Marie Stover—Fiscal Support Analyst for the Biomedical Engineering Department—offers a summary of the Women in the Workforce Annual Conference held on March 6, 2019 and the various sessions that were presented.


The theme of this conference was Purpose, Performance, and Persuasion. Their description: “This one-day, interactive conference provides female professionals with an opportunity to enhance relevant workplace skills. Hear from industry veterans on topics that align with this year’s theme.” 

Keynote Speaker:

“This thought-provoking session on leadership style specifically is geared towards women, focused on 6 Key P’s: Performance, Persuasion, Purpose, Passion, Presence, and Perception.”

  • The first session was with Keynote Speaker Merrissa Pires, VP of Human Resources at Rickett Benckiser. We were asked to speak with another attendee about who we are at our best and worst, and how we remain our best during our worst times. This allowed us to reflect on who we really are, and made us think about our passions, and what makes us feel powerful. She asked us to think about how a child would perceive us; children tend to see greatness in everything, which was very thought provoking. Then she provided us with a quote, “Gallup analysis reveals that people who use their strengths (passions) every day are three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life, six times more likely to be engaged at work, 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit their jobs.” This engrains that how we perceive ourselves, and the things we are passionate about, have a huge impact on us. With that said, she pointed out that women often tear themselves down, when they should be lifting themselves up. This is a great reminder for anyone; your quality of life matters, and you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself.


  • We chose between two workshops: Discover Your Purpose: Emi Cardarelli, Director Club Sales and Sustainability at Unilever and Discover and the Impact of Storytelling in the Workplace: Shannon Petersen, Director of Human Resources at Hilti. I chose to attend the latter, since the former sounded similar to the keynote speaker, and I wanted to learn something different. This presentation’s purpose was to give us a deeper understanding of the power of storytelling and how to use it to connect with co-workers, customers, and supervisors. Shannon shared her story of a medical scare that forced her to spontaneously go on short-term disability leave, and how her supervisor was supportive and encouraged her to come back to work afterwards. By the end of the story, the whole audience felt a connection to Shannon and her experience. As an exercise, she had one half of the room ask each other a set of questions, then the other half answer a different set. The first half were simple questions about favorite actors, and pets, while the second half was about our goals and other personal questions. Her point was that the more complex and personal a question or story is, the more in-depth the answer or reaction will be. As a result, you will feel more connected to the other person. She uses this method to hire employees, or sell a product, but it can be used in any situation where you are interacting with another individual.

 Panel Discussion:

  • Silvia Siqueria, Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Hilti, brought a panel of presenters to discuss the importance of workplace diversity. At first, they began with gender diversity, but it quickly began to include age and race as well. They answered several questions from the audience about how to handle situations, ranging from what to do when someone is clearly excluding you for being different than them, to when someone is trying to make you comfortable, but ends up making you more uncomfortable. The example given for the latter was, an African American woman had started a position and had items removed from her list of duties, because her supervisor didn’t think she would be comfortable handing it. All of the responses were thoughtful, but the most helpful piece of advice, was to write it down and have a conversation about it later. Tell them how it made you feel and ask if this was their intention. Silvia said from her experience doing this, she usually gets the response, “Of course not, I didn’t even think about it that way”. This opens a dialogue about the issue, and allows the other person to understand how their words or actions can be misconstrued, so they can be more thoughtful about the way they behave in the future. I think this piece of advice can be helpful to anyone who is having a conflict with a co-worker or supervisor.

The day ended with a drawing for some goodies, and closing words by the MC, Kristy Meinzer, Senior Manager of Performance Content, and VMLY&R.


Kara Karstedt and Kimberley Fuller Attend Women in the Workforce Conference

Kara Karstedt (left) and Kimberley Fuller (right) at the Women in the Workforce Conference in Bentonville, AR.

On Thursday March 1, Kara Karstedt, Operations Officer for the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Kimberley Fuller, Research Assistant for the Department, attended the Women in the Workforce Conference in Bentonville, AR.  Below, they discuss their experiences as attendees and what they each learned from the conference:

Sponsored by the University of Arkansas Global Campus, the Women in the Workforce Conference focused on the importance of diversity, innovation and creativity in our work lives. The one-day event included discussions on topics such as how to be creative and innovative when under stress, how to empower and embrace your own creativity, and the importance of diversity and inclusion in problem solving and corporate growth.

The conference reminded us that everyone has creativity within us, and that we all need to consciously tap into our creative potential to maximize problem solving. Whereas invention, we learned, is the creation of a brand-new product or service (something created for the first time), innovation is putting something that already exists in a new context. Innovation is where most entrepreneurial endeavors focus, and personal passion and creativity is often a key driver of both invention and innovation. In these regards, Biomedical Engineering offers amazing opportunities for both invention and innovation. When creating something new or improving a process, the conference encouraged that we ask ourselves, “Am I thinking big enough? Bold enough? How much improvement is really possible? Is my thinking in any way limiting the possibilities?”


On the 2018 National Society of Black Engineers Conference: Kristianna Jones Reports

The UARK NSBE Chapter at the Region V Zone Meeting

Kristianna Jones is an undergraduate studying biomedical engineering, and the secretary of the UArk chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. Below, she discusses her experiences during last year’s Region V NSBE Fall Conference. 

Being an African American student in the STEM field, it’s not very often that I meet people who look like me and have the same goals and aspirations as me. Well, at least not until you go to a NSBE conference. The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE for short) hosts multiple regional conferences every year and this year, many University of Arkansas chapter members and myself had the privilege of attending the Region V Fall Regional Conference in Tulsa, OK. The Fall Regional Conference (FRC) was a 3-day conference full of workshops, speakers and even a career fair with a plethora of well-known companies such as Cerner, Google and General Motors!

The first day of the conference was filled with various workshops about topics ranging from studying abroad to how to strengthen your personal brand. A few of these workshops were hosted by current and former University of Arkansas students. As the chapter secretary, I was often asked to help assist with and coordinate the events that the chapter would be attending so I even got to help prepare a few workshops for the entire conference! It was rewarding to see how the work I put in helped better the conference experience for students I had never even met before.


On Improving the Effects of Traditional Chemotherapy: Shelby Bess and Caroline Spainhour on Lab Work, Research, and More

Shelby Bess

Caroline Spainhour

Shelby Bess and Caroline Spainhour are undergraduates studying biomedical engineering. Below, Bess (a junior) and Spainhour (a senior) discuss their respective decisions to come to the U of A, their work in Dr. Timothy Muldoon’s lab, and their future career plans. 

UArk BME: Did you always know you wanted to study biomedical engineering?

Spainhour: I went to a smaller high school with a graduating class of about 100 students. My arrival at the University of Arkansas as one of 25,000 undergraduate students was a big transition. Coming to such a large university, I knew that I had to make it smaller somehow, so I wanted to choose a major where the professors would know my name. I have always liked math and science, so I decided to pursue an engineering degree. My uncle graduated from the U of A with a degree in industrial engineering and went on to become a physician, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. When he was in school, biomedical engineering was not offered at U of A, but I thought among all of the engineering disciplines, biomedical would help me distinguish myself academically when applying to start medical school. Looking back, I had no idea what biomedical engineering really was as a freshman in college, but now I am very pleased to have been a part of such a rigorous and rewarding academic program.

Bess: In high school, I took a Principles of Engineering course as an elective thinking that it was going to be an easy grade, but I learned so much more. After taking that course, I knew that I wanted to be an engineer. When I arrived at the University of Arkansas, I always knew that I wanted to be in the medical field, but I wasn’t sure which major was right for me. For my first semester, I was going back and forth between Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering. When I went on the tour of the Biomedical Engineering department and looked at what they had to offer, I knew that the Biomedical Engineering department was the best fit for me. As a junior at the University of Arkansas, I look back at Decision Day and knew that I made the right decision.


Conference Diaries: Kinan Alhallak

Alhallak presents his research on "Optical metabolic imaging of response to radiation in radiation-sensitive and resistant lung cancer cells."

Alhallak presents his research on “Optical metabolic imaging of response to radiation in radiation-sensitive and resistant lung cancer cells.”

From April 16-18, 2016, University of Arkansas biomedical engineering student Kinan Alhallak attended the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), which was held in New Orleans, Louisiana. Below, Alhallak offers his reflections on the conference:

I was very fortunate to be able to go to the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, along with Kristina Maxwell from Dr. David Zaharoff’s lab at the U. of A. On the first day of the conference, I participated in the undergraduate poster competition, and was thrilled to see that over a hundred undergraduates from across the nation also came to present their research.