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An aspiring physician excited to bridge healthcare divides through biomedical research
Molly Eron, Undergraduate Senior
Hometown: Doylestown, PA
BME Degree Program: B.S. in biomedical engineering '23, concentrating in molecular, cellular, and systems engineering (MCSE)
Awards/Honors: Merrill Presidential Scholar; Dean’s List Each Semester; 2nd place, Ronald ’57 and Frederick ’86 Fichtl Innovation Award—awarded to the two most innovative and best-developed innovation concept.
I chose Cornell for its top-ranked engineering program that is well-known for its collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to learning. The university's focus on innovation and creativity also appealed to me, as did the thousands of student organizations offering opportunities for community engagement, career advancement, and personal growth. Additionally, Cornell has an unparalleled student and alumni network, and beyond academics, the campus and surrounding Ithaca area are beautiful, providing many opportunities to experience and enjoy nature.
I have always had a deep interest in science and mathematics, which led me to compete in regional science research fairs throughout high school. During this time, I also developed a fascination with medicine and physiology, which sparked a desire to pursue a career in healthcare. With these two distinct passions, I began to explore ways in which engineering principles could be applied to medicine and biology, and this ultimately drew me to the field of biomedical engineering. I was immediately captivated by the possibilities that BME offered for developing innovative solutions to healthcare challenges and the potential to improve the lives of so many people. I was particularly drawn to the constant evolution and interdisciplinary nature of the field, which has not only allowed me to combine my interests but has also provided a strong foundational skillset and unique perspective that I am excited to bring to the field of medicine as an aspiring physician hoping to bridge healthcare divides through biomedical research.
One of the best aspects of biomedical engineering is that it offers a diverse and expanding range of career opportunities. One might go on to become a physician like I hope to do, or pursue paths such as biomedical research, device development, biomanufacturing, regulatory affairs, consulting, or entrepreneurship. The possibilities are truly endless, and it has been exciting getting to see the different paths my classmates have chosen as we are about to graduate!
How did you decide to concentrate in molecular, cellular, and systems engineering (MCSE)?
I was interested in the computational models and strategies used to predict cellular behaviors on much smaller scales. I also liked the prospect of developing more advanced cell culturing techniques and utilizing molecular and genetic technologies to manipulate and analyze cell behaviors under different conditions. In this concentration I realized that a major benefit of MCSE—and BME concentrations in general—is that there is a lot of coursework flexibility. Beyond my required core classes, I was able to explore courses related to mechanobiology and biomaterials, which have helped to broaden my perspective on BME as a field.
Professor Ben Cosgrove, my BME faculty advisor, also motivated me to pursue the MCSE concentration in his class BME 3110: Cellular Systems Biology, which is one of my favorite courses that I have taken at Cornell. I really enjoyed the focus on interesting computational implementations and applications, particularly in modeling cellular processes and analyzing large gene sets with Matlab and R. He made the class engaging and showcased how what we were learning could directly be used in the field of BME.
What are some useful skills you’ve learned while pursuing this major?
I feel fortunate to have acquired a variety of useful technical skills while pursuing a BME degree such as cell culturing, PCR, MATLAB programming, CAD, circuit building, report writing, and more. However, the two most valuable skills I’ve learned at Cornell are adaptability and problem solving. These two skills have helped me find success in even the most challenging courses, and I think they will be essential traits in many areas of my future career and life. The ability to adapt to new situations or circumstances and being resilient in the face of challenges are critical to thriving in a field that is focused on tackling the most pressing healthcare issues and unearthing new and complex information about physiological systems and phenomena.
Any advice for others considering BME?
Have an open mind and don’t be afraid to fail. BME is an exciting field with so many areas of study to explore, and new findings and technologies continually give rise to new BME domains and career opportunities. The coursework can be challenging, but it is also extremely rewarding and the community of students within the major is super supportive and collaborative. Finally, if you’re considering the pre-med path as a BME major, it is definitely feasible, and I honestly believe my background in BME has been and will continue to be advantageous for seeking out pre-med opportunities and applying to medical schools.
What have been your experiences outside your coursework?
In the summer after my sophomore year, I performed and presented research at UNC Chapel Hill involving the development of 3D printed intravaginal rings as a multipurpose prevention technology against HIV, HSV-2, and unplanned pregnancy. This was an extremely exciting and rewarding experience as I was able to work on multiple independent and collaborative projects that allowed me to utilize and refine skills I developed within the BME curriculum.
After my junior year, I was involved in a pre-med summer program where I shadowed physicians in over 15 different departments, acquiring over 100 observation and lecture hours. During this time, I was also studying for the MCAT, which definitely required a lot of hard work and discipline but paid off in the end!
As my main extracurricular, I am the team lead of Cornell University Biomedical Device, a new project team that focuses on developing novel biomedical devices to address pertinent issues in the healthcare field. Our faculty advisor, Dr. James Antaki, who has provided me with valuable insight into the biodesign process and helpful feedback with respect to idea generation and project selection. Each year, we submit to multiple competitions and have garnered recognition and support for a number of our devices. Some of our innovative designs include an over-the-ear device to remedy bruxism, a wearable wristband sensor to monitor the neuromuscular symptoms of MS, and an enhanced pulse oximeter that can account for differences in skin pigmentation.
I have also engaged with the surrounding community by volunteering at Loaves and Fishes, an Ithaca-based soup kitchen and food pantry serving residents in need. For this organization, I have been working on a Cornell Contribution Project. Additionally, I serve as a patient advocate at the Guthrie Cortland Medical Center in the emergency department on the weekends.
What stands out to you about your Cornell BME experience?
I think the two culminating moments of my Cornell BME experience would be working on my senior design project, MyUD, and helping to facilitate a GoBabyGo event.
For my senior design project, I have been collaborating with four other talented BME students to provide intrauterine device (IUD) users with a better way to determine if their IUD is malpositioned or out of place. This issue is prevalent and can lead to serious complications including ectopic pregnancy and uterine perforation. Overall, this has been a great opportunity to apply the research and design skills we have developed over our time at Cornell, and it has involved a lot of creativity and perseverance. We are fortunate to have received guidance and support from BME professors Nate Cira and Warren Zipfel to help us achieve success. We pitched and presented our design idea at the Cornell Engineering Innovation Competition and received the second place Ronald ’57 and Frederick ’86 Fichtl Innovation Award. We received our award and were recognized for our innovative design in April at the Entrepreneurship Celebration, at which we got to network with esteemed alumni which was a really exciting experience.
For the GoBabyGo event, I organized and directed a group of Cornell BME students, and we collaborated with Ithaca College Physical Therapy students to modify ride-on cars for kids with mobility impairments. After hearing the assessments from the physical and occupational therapists, we split up the BME students into teams to work on the two cars. We were tasked with extending and modifying the steering wheels, rewiring the cars to add larger push buttons for ease of operation, and creating more stable back supports. This required a lot of trial and error and was definitely a team effort, but it was so rewarding to see the kids’ excitement when they were able to drive their cars around independently.
After graduation, I will be working as a clinical research coordinator in the Philadelphia Adult Congenital Heart Center which is a joint program between both the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. I am very excited about this opportunity as it provides valuable clinical research experience, physician mentorship, and patient interaction opportunities at two of the nation’s premier medical institutions. I have to thank both Dr. James Antaki and Dr. Karl Lewis for supporting me in the process of pursuing this position.
Cardiology is a field deeply dependent on the use of biomedical devices for the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular diseases and heart conditions. Dr. Antaki’s work in the field of heart assist technology including the development of a magnetically levitated rotodynamic blood pump and continued work towards circulatory support systems for children is particularly inspiring. The intersection of BME and cardiology has ultimately fostered a greater appreciation for the field, and a family history of cardiovascular disease has bolstered my passion for pursuing cardiology in the future.