"The BME MEng at Cornell was the perfect fit for me . . . what really appealed to me was the flexibility of choices in choosing your path in the large field of biomedical engineering and the opportunity to work with industry experts and physicians on solving real-world medical problems." Read more about Alumni Spotlight: Qiwei (Alex) Li, M.Eng. 2019
Ben Dickstein, B.S. '20
Hometown: Wayland, MA
BME Degree Program: BS in biomedical engineering with concentration in Biomaterials & Drug Delivery (BMDD)
Awards/honors received at Cornell: Tau Beta Pi, Order of Omega
Lab affiliation/Adviser(s): Dr. David Putnam (Graduate Research), Dr. Yadong Wang (Undergraduate Research), and Dr. Claudia Fischbach
I chose Cornell because of the opportunities that are available to undergraduate students. I knew I wanted to study engineering in college. Cornell offered strong majors in every field of engineering and has a diverse array of research, organizations, and clubs available for students to pursue. I also loved that Cornell has so many different colleges with so many classes outside of engineering to choose from.
What made you choose BME as your major and what interests you most about it?
I chose BME because of an ENGRI (intro to engineering) course that I took freshman year about nanotechnology. We were introduced to nanotechnology and its applications to several fields such as energy, materials science, and biomedicine. I came to Cornell thinking I wanted to study renewable energy and materials. After this course, I realized that my interests in material science aligned with the fields of biomaterials and drug delivery. Because of this, I started following the BME track the following semester.
How did you decide on your BME concentration Biomaterials and Drug Delivery (BMDD)?
I chose the BMDD concentration because I think that current research and challenges in pharmaceutical drug delivery are really exciting. There has been significant progress in the discovery of novel therapeutic agents over the past 20 years, but the delivery of these drugs in a pill or a bolus formulation are not always the most effective method for treating diseases. BMDD has allowed me to pursue and learn about new and exciting methods to deliver drugs for targeted and localized treatments. Research and progress in this field has the potential to significantly improve the way we can treat illness, with more precision targeting of both new and existing pharmaceutical agents.
What do you think are some of the most important skills you’ve learned while pursuing this major?
I think design thinking and advanced lab techniques are the most important skills I have learned over the past four years. Through various BME courses, labs, and research experiences, I have been exposed to techniques ranging from instrumentation and signal processing to microfluidics and cell-based assays. Many of these courses have also concluded with a final design project where we research a specific biomedical challenge and then research and propose new and innovative solutions. These lab techniques and design skills will be fundamental in my career after graduation.
What are some of the skills you think someone should possess in order to do well in this major?
I believe the most important skills someone studying BME should possess are teamwork, creativity, and drive. Engineering is all about looking at challenges from a different perspective and working together to find creative and innovative solutions. I, like many others, did not come into Cornell with any lab skills or extensive biological experience, but BME provides students with all the resources students need to succeed in this field.
What advice might you give other students considering BME?
I think the first thing I would say is to get involved! There are so many labs, clubs and project teams on campus. Find a bunch of professors who do research on something that interests you, seek them out, and talk to them—they’re happy to share what they know and might offer you a change to work with them. For those considering BME I would say that at its foundation, biomedical engineering is about helping others. If that is what you like, then this is a perfect major for finding creative solutions to difficult health problems.
Any interests outside of or in relationship to your scholarship?
Throughout college I’ve been fortunate to be a part of an engineering project team and to participate in undergraduate research. For three years I was part of Cornell’s Baja Racing project team as a business team member. Later on, as I shifted my focus to research, I have also been a part of the work going on in two labs (Dr. Wang and Dr. Putnam) where I have researched biomaterials and novel drug delivery systems. Outside of Cornell, I have had two summer internships, one in research and development at Moderna and the other in process development at Biogen.
What stands out to you about your Cornell BME experience so far and why?
One experiences that stands out was a day in BME 3030: Measurement and Instrumentation. Up to this point in the class, lab groups had been experimenting with breadboards using capacitors and resistors. Then, each group was given a few simple sensors--microphones, force sensors, photodiodes--and told to build a heart rate monitor. I saw this as a pretty daunting task, but within 30 minutes my lab partner and I were able to generate a clean heart rate signal. I think this lab stuck out to me because I thought this task was too complex for a single lab session, but I soon found out that I had been taught everything that I needed. This lab exercise was one of the first times I saw how theory and concepts can be applied to a real-life situation.
What’s the next step for you?
Although I am graduating in May, I am enrolled in the Master of Engineering early-admit program at Cornell, which is designed to allow seniors in engineering to begin graduate studies early and graduate with a Masters Degree with only one additional semester of school. I chose to do an M. Eng in BME in order to continue research and sharpen my lab techniques. Afterwards I plan on working in Pharmaceutical R&D or process development in the Boston area.
Favorite quote that helps inspire you in your work/life?
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” – Thomas Edison