biomedical engineering

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Since my last blog post during Wintersession, campus has become a lot more lively because everyone is back. I’ve finally decided on my schedule, which includes several new things that I’ve never tried before.

  1. I’m working in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) undergraduate labs under the direction of Sujata, my concentration (major) advisor for Biomedical Engineering. Sujata and I met earlier this week to decide on a project that I’d be interested in. With sustainability and this whole “Green is the new Crimson” initiative on campus that was implemented in recent years, we decided a really neat project would be to work with naturally-derived, renewable materials. This semester, I’ll be performing both biological and mechanical characterization of these materials with clinically relevant cell lines and exploring them for biomedical applications. For example, perhaps a corn-derived material or fabric could be used in supporting the lungs of someone who is suffering from emphysema (loss of elasticity in the lungs) or just had a heart attack. I’ll essentially be trying to mix these things to see if corn-derived materials can be used in things like medical devices and to see whether or not they can be used in the body safely, without adverse side effects.
  2. I am taking 5 courses! Well, my research counts as a course, so it isn’t the traditional class with a lecture and homework. While it isn’t all that unusual for someone to take 5 classes, the typical semester here includes only 4, which is what I’ve always done. Regardless, I’m excited, and I think I’ll be able to manage it.
  3. I have 8:30 am class on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. For those of you high schoolers reading this, that may sound very late. However, you realize that in college, 9:00 am becomes your 6:00 am as an undergrad. Of course, I woke up at 6:00 am in high school for a 7:15 am first class and was so accustomed to it that it just became part of everyday life. Waking up past 6:00 am was considered sleeping in. But in college, 9:00 am is pretty early, and 8:30 am is nearly unheard of (in my experience, I’ve found that very few classes meet before 9). This is, indeed, tragic, but having done it for a week, it’s not all that bad. I guess I’m being a bit dramatic, but it’s nice to be done with class for the day by 10:00 or 11:00 am, which is before some people even start!

I’d like to invite you all to follow us student life bloggers on Twitter. Our username is @HarvardBloggers (, and it’s simply another way for you to connect with us. We’ll be tweeting about life on campus, as well as whenever one of us has a new blog post! Check it out!


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Hello, everyone! I am back on campus for Wintersession, writing to you all from the comfort of my dorm room! Wintersession (formerly called “Optional Winter Activities Week” or “OWAW” — I actually like this better than what they renamed it to, just because I liked to pronounce it as “Oh, wow!”) is the week before spring classes start, filled with College and student-led programming everyday, all funded by the University. It’s supposed to be a time for fun and exploration, to do things that you can’t really do during the normal semester just because there’s such a focus on academics and other extracurriculars. For example, many students are going on a ski and tubing trip, as well as a Boston Celtics basketball game. There are also some cool classes that are being offered, including a music workshop, a DJ-ing class, among many others. Last year, I was on campus recording a charity song I wrote with two friends in a local recording studio. The song, called “Going Up”, was written in response to the tragic earthquake that hit Haiti in January of 2010. We wanted to raise relief funds and awareness through our project. With Harvard’s help, we ended up recording, releasing, and performing the song at the end of the week, and it was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had here. Check it out below:


Starting tomorrow, I’m participating in a special engineering course called “Sustainable Materials as Biomedical Materials” where we’ll be exploring different paths in biochemical and biomedical engineering, including industry and research. Here’s a glimpse at our schedule:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012:  International Symposium on Bio-Inspired Engineering
Wednesday, January 18, 2012: Introduction to Biomedical Engineering, Biomaterials, and Drug Delivery; Biocompatibility Testing of Biomaterials
Thursday, January 19, 2012: Introduction to Biochemical Engineering and Metabolic Engineering
Friday, January 20, 2012: Biochemical Engineering meets Biomedical Engineering – Polysaccharide-Based Tissue Glues; Biochemical Engineering meets Biomedical Engineering – Clinical Trials

Today, I went to a book talk, jointly sponsored by the Undergraduate Council and Harvard Alumni Association. These two groups have come together to bring alumni and faculty authors to campus all week to speak about their books, experiences, etc. The awesome part about these book talk events is that not only do you hear from some interesting people, there’s a raffle that gives away 50 copies of the author’s book.

This afternoon’s guest was Joanne Chang ’91, a pastry chef who owns both Boston’s Flour bakery and Myers + Chang Asian cuisine restaurant. She was an Applied Mathematics/Economics concentrator (our word for major) here, but left a career in management consulting after two years to follow her passion of baking. She told us the entire story of how she got to where she is today. Her talk was very inspiring because she was super real and candid with us, and she’s found both success and happiness after following a very untraditional path. Joanne has even been on The Food Network’s Throwdown! with Bobby Flay. We had the opportunity to talk to her briefly afterwards, and she was extremely down to earth. She signed my book, and we even got a picture with her!

Us with pastry chef and Harvard alum, Joanne Chang!

Us with pastry chef and Harvard alum, Joanne Chang! Her book got cut off at the bottom there…

Joanne's recipe book, "Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe"

Joanne's recipe book, "Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe"

This evening, there was an ice skating event at the Bright Hockey Center, home to the Men’s and Women’s Varsity Hockey teams. Now, I’m not the best skater, and was a bit hesitant to go, but my friends convinced me and I’m really glad I did. It was definitely a lot of fun, and there were so many more people than I was expecting. I didn’t fall, either! Wintersession has been great thus far, and I’m definitely looking forward to the rest of the week!


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Happy New Year! I can’t believe 2012 is already here. It is unbelievable how time flies, and it definitely doesn’t feel like I’ve been at Harvard for two and a half years already. I told you all I would keep you updated on how my planning for the spring semester is going, and it looks like I’ve decided on only one course so far: “Engineering Sciences 123: Introduction to Fluid Mechanics and Transport Processes.” Okay…so from the title alone, this class isn’t exactly one that I’ve been dying to take since declaring my concentration (major) as Biomedical Engineering. It sounds like there is going to be a lot of physics and applied math involved. I love the latter, but can’t say the same about physics. While I’m not a physics person by any means, I’m open-minded, and this is indeed a concentration requirement.

As far as the other courses in my schedule go, there are a bunch I am looking at.

  • “Computer Science 51: Introduction to Computer Science II”
  • “Government 1093: Ethics, Biotechnology, and the Future of Human Nature”
  • “Societies of the World 24: Global Health Challenges: Complexities of Evidence-Based Policy”
  • “Engineering Sciences 91r: Supervised Reading and Research”
  • “Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality 1266: Gender and Sports”

OFF ON A TANGENT: You’ll notice that I’m considering many courses that don’t have to do with engineering. When I applied to Harvard, I indicated on my application that I intended to pursue engineering and stuck with it. No one actually declares a concentration until his or her sophomore fall. However, applying as an engineer, I was conscious of the fact that Harvard isn’t a traditional engineering school, but that’s what was really attractive to me. I liked the idea of being a “Renaissance Engineer” because I have many eclectic interests. Sure, I love math and science and those are the two subjects I focused on in high school. But I have a great appreciation for English literature (Shakespeare’s King Lear, anyone??), ethnic studies, technology, and global health, to name a few. I knew that Harvard would be able to offer me opportunities in engineering in the context of a liberal arts education, which set it apart from many other, solely technical universities that I was considering.

There are actually several other courses I’m looking at, but these really stood out to me. Selecting courses is extremely difficult, because there are thousands to choose from, and only so much time in one semester. On top of deciding between which subjects I’m most interested in, finalizing my schedule also comes down to logistics, including requirements, class meetings, exam dates, etc. In addition, I haven’t spoken to any friends about classes yet. At least one person usually ends up finding a gem that I didn’t. With so many courses, it’s easy to overlook many of them, let alone one. It usually all ends up working out some way or another, though. When it’s shopping week (check out Jeanie’s post if you aren’t familiar) towards the end of the month, I’ll post a screenshot of my final shopping schedule–I’m sure it’ll look crazy hectic with all of the aforementioned courses and then some. New semester, new courses, new year…I’m really looking forward to 2012 and new challenges, ups, downs, and memories in general!

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