Paolo Garcia is an Honors College Fellow and a senior majoring in biomedical engineering here at the University of Arkansas. He was recently recognized by the Arkansas Alumni Association as a “Razorback Classic,” an honor that celebrates academic excellence, demonstrated leadership, and campus or community involvement. Below, he offers tips on how to succeed as an undergraduate engineering student at the U of A:
1. When in doubt about a concept you are learning, don’t hesitate to ask someone. If you are confused about something you have encountered in your studies, it’s highly likely that someone else feels just as lost. When this happens, it is important to remember that there is a wealth of students and faculty in the department that you can consult. A fellow classmate may be able to help you understand something that was mentioned in class simply by providing an alternative perspective. An upperclassman could point you in the direction of a valuable resource. Lastly, a professor could potentially clear up confusion with a few minutes of discussion. Don’t let your question go unanswered!
2. Be sure to take good care of your physical and mental health. In the stress of studying, it can be easy to forget to address your own needs. Speaking from experience, it’s difficult to get anything done when you’re sick! One of the wonderful things about this campus is the close proximity of resources dedicated to health and wellness. Pat Walker Health Center and CAPS are just a stone’s throw away from the Arkansas Union. Should you wish to exercise, check out the HPER or the gym in the Union. Classes of all kinds are also offered by the university from time to time, ranging from yoga to self-defense. Remember, even the smallest steps toward better physical and mental health can greatly impact your success.
3. Become involved in research. The professors in this department research a wide variety of subjects, so you’re likely to find something that interests you. Talk to the professor whose work interests you the most to get a better sense of what their lab’s long term goals are and if they have a position for you. Participating in research provides laboratory-based experience and will help you learn about techniques or tools that you may encounter outside of the scope of your classes. This knowledge comes in handy when you’re participating in an internship or REU program. In some cases, the concepts you come across in research may also prepare you for a course you will take later!
4. Take some time to study abroad. Doing so gives you the chance to be thrown into a completely different environment full of novel experiences. In addition to discovering the cultural differences and similarities between that of your host country and your own, the country you visit may have various specialties that it is known for. These specialties may help prepare you for a career after college. I studied abroad in Denmark, which is known for its large collection of biotechnology companies and unique healthcare system. Thus, I got the opportunity to tour the facilities of Novo Nordisk and learn about the difference between American and Danish healthcare from practicing physicians in the area.
5. Find an RSO that you can both contribute to and learn from. Plenty of organizations on campus are open to students of all academic backgrounds. RSOs (like our department’s own BMES) sponsor speaker events and panels packed with valuable information. These organizations often provide great ways to give back to the community in the form of volunteering or even food drives. If there is a leadership opportunity, don’t hesitate to go for it! As a student leader, you would have the chance to use your skills to improve the organization you are a part of and help reach other students like you.