Melanie Wallace is an alum of the Lammerding Lab, now improving health and quality of life through innovation at 23andMe. Read more about Making an impact through genetic health innovation and education
Cassandra Gologorsky, B.S. 2020
Hometown: Towaco, NJ
BME Degree: B.S. in biomedical engineering with concentration in Molecular/Cellular/Systems Engineering (MCSE)
Lab affiliation: Bonassar Group (Prof. Lawrence Bonassar)
Awards/honors: Tau Beta Pi member, Elmer Markham Johnson Award, McMullen Scholar, Dean’s List (Fall 2017-Fall 2020)
I chose Cornell for two main reasons: my interest in doing BME research and my interest in law. Having conducted research in high school, I was excited to see the many opportunities for undergraduate research at Cornell, and I was interested in a lot of the BME faculty research at Cornell in particular. I’ve always loved to read and write, so the ability to take law classes in addition to STEM-oriented classes as an engineer was exciting as well as incredibly insightful. In my BME classes, I’d consider the feasibility of designing an implant or diagnostic tool, while in my law classes, I’d consider the ethics of doing so or the legislative requirements involved.
I knew I wanted to study BME in high school. I’ve always found it amazing how the body functions like an incredibly complex and well-thought-out machine, yet there is still so much we don’t know about it. I decided to pursue BME because advancements in this field have the potential to improve the lives of so many people, and that’s something I’m incredibly passionate about doing in my career.
How did you decide on your BME concentration, Molecular/Cellular/Systems Engineering (MCSE)?
MCSE allowed me to integrate two of my main interests in BME: tissue engineering and biomechanics. I’m particularly interested in developing devices and products that mimic the native mechanics of the body and/or capitalize on the body’s natural repair mechanisms. With the MCSE concentration, I was able to take classes like Current Practices in Tissue Engineering as well as Systems Mechanobiology to strengthen my knowledge of both areas.
What do you think are some of the most important skills you’ve learned while pursuing this major?
Studying BME has taught me how to take a big-picture approach and think critically. Understanding how to repair the body is less about memorizing information and more about seeing the body—and devices that repair the body—as an intricate network of factors and figuring out how they will interact. Another skill I’ve learned from studying BME is how to communicate scientific information effectively. This is a pretty important one, since scientific progress will only make an impact if it can be shared and understood.
What are some of the skills you think someone should possess in order to do well in this major?
I don’t think anyone needs a specific set of skills to do well in BME, since there are a lot of skills you’ll learn in the major that will help you through classes. I think people choosing BME should be passionate about studying BME and have an interest in how principles of biology, chemistry, and physics play into the development and function of the human body. If you want to study BME, you should be genuinely interested in the material, because you’ll be spending a lot of time with it!
What advice might you give other students considering BME?
To other students considering BME: Think about what you want to do post-graduation and see whether BME fits into that. One of the good things about BME is that it’s a pretty wide-reaching field; there are so many career options all covered by the term biomedical engineering. If you do choose BME, don’t stress too much about your grades and don’t be afraid to ask professors for help! All of the professors I’ve had in the BME department are excited about their courses and want to see you succeed, and there’s so much more to life at Cornell than stressing over a problem set!
Any interests outside of or in relationship to your scholarship?
Too many to count! I joined Cornell Running Club on my first day of Cornell, which will always hold a place in my heart and some of my best memories! I later joined Cornell’s Triathlon Team and Boxing Club, and in my free time, I love to read, paint, and play DnD. In terms of career-related pursuits, I’ve interned at both a law firm and a biomedical startup (Biorez), and I’ve conducted research at Rutgers University and Stevens Institute of Technology in addition to my research at Cornell.
What stands out to you about your Cornell BME experience so far and why?
My research in the Bonassar lab has definitely been one of my favorite experiences with BME! It’s been amazing to build on my project for the past two years and discover more about the structure-mechanics relationships of TMJ cartilage and their significance. Representing the BME department and the Bonassar lab with my presentations and talks at the BMES and SB3C conferences are some of my favorite memories from my time at Cornell, and Professor Bonassar has been a wonderful mentor! It’s something I’m really going to miss.
What’s the next step for you?
I will be joining the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI) this spring to work on upscaling and automating manufacturing processes for tissue-engineered products. Much like communication, I think the translation of technology from benchtop to product is an incredibly important part of biomedical engineering— especially in advancing the field of regenerative medicine—and I’m excited to work towards improving the lives of others by bridging this gap!
Favorite quote that helps inspire you in your work/life?
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” -Oscar Wilde