"Following graduation, I will be working as an Associate Specialist in Merck’s IT Emerging Talent Rotational Program, where I will be rotating between projects in Data Science, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Software Engineering." Read more about Kristen Ong, Undergraduate Senior
Celebrating Seniors! Alexa Podolsky
Hometown: Princeton, NJ
BME Degree Program: B.S. in BME, Molecular/Cellular/Systems Engineering (MCSE)
Lab affiliation: Lammerding Lab
Awards/honors: Merrill Presidential Scholar; Tau Beta Pi Scholar
I knew I wanted to be involved in the medical field but I wasn’t certain about where exactly I would fit in and find my passions. I knew that BME would expose me to all of the different aspects of medicine that I was interested in: biology, healthcare, technology, academia, etc. and I knew that my experiences would guide me towards my niche. I am so grateful that I chose BME as my major.
What do you think are some of the most important skills you’ve learned while pursuing this major?
Without a doubt I have learned how to manage my time wisely, how to work with and lead a team, how to communicate scientifically, and how to adapt. I’ve developed these important skills throughout my rigorous experience in BME and I was able to combine all of them while leading my design group for our senior capstone project.
What was it like to pursue and finish your degree during the pandemic?
Although it was upsetting to lose valuable time with peers during my junior and senior years, I was grateful for the extra family time I was able to have during the pandemic. Taking prelims from my childhood bedroom was definitely not something I expected to do during my college experience, but as I mentioned before, a very important skill I learned at Cornell and in BME was how to adapt.
What advice might you give other students considering BME?
My experience as a BME student radically changed once I found a group of friends that I worked really well with. We run ideas by each other, check in on each other, and keep each other on track with deadlines and reminders. BME, and engineering majors at Cornell in general, are designed to be collaborative and once I found my “squad” I was able to enjoy my experience so much more. So, my advice would be to not be as shy as I was during freshman and sophomore year, and to make a more conscious effort to talk to your classmates and befriend them. Ask a peer if they would want to study together or work on a problem set together! It’s a game changer when you’re not only learning from your professors but from your classmates too.
Any interests outside of or in relationship to your scholarship?
I have been involved in undergraduate research since my freshman year and really found my home in the Lammerding Lab here in Weill Hall. My PI, Jan, and my postdocs, Tyler and Hind, have been incredible mentors. Jan nominated me for the Merrill scholarship, which was incredibly humbling. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to acknowledge him and my high school AP Chemistry teacher for playing such a significant role in my scholarship.
Besides undergraduate research, I also served as the President of Cornell’s chapter of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors society, and as the secretary for the undergraduate chapter of the Biomedical Engineering Society. I’ve given back to my Ithaca community by volunteering with the Reassurance Program for Foodnet Meals on Wheels, and by being a call volunteer for Cayuga Health Partners.
I also love to dance, so Salsa Pa’lante was a very big part of my Cornell experience!
What stands out to you about your Cornell BME experience so far and why?
I will remember my Cornell BME experience by the amazing people I’ve met and have had the privilege of working with, including some of my best friends. Also, my time in the Lammerding Lab will forever be one of my fondest memories of Cornell and BME.
What’s the next step for you?
After Cornell, I will be applying to medical school for matriculation in the Fall of 2022 while working at a plastic surgeon’s office in New York City. All of my meaningful Cornell experiences and relationships have led me in this direction.