Emelia Funnell is pursuing her biomedical engineering degree at Georgia Tech. Here she shares a little about her career and the inspiration behind it.
What is your specific area of STEM?
How would you explain your STEM field to young girls?
Biomedical engineering focuses on developing medical technologies to help people with medical conditions or disabilities. For example, a biomedical engineer might help someone with only arm by developing a prosthetic (or fake) arm for them to use.
What traits might a child possess that may indicate an interest or aptitude for your STEM field?
I believe question-asking and answer-seeking is definitely a trait indicating early aptitude for engineering. As for the biomedical focus of engineering, a child may show signs of caring for other people's lives and wanting to help improve the lives of those who are in suffering.
What did you know about your STEM field when you were a child?
To be honest, I didn't think seriously about what I wanted to study until going into high school. As a child, I just wanted to be a professional soccer player. However, throughout my primary and secondary education, I was drawn to math and science and encouraged to really commit to those subjects.
Why did you choose your STEM field? Were you inspired by someone?
I knew I liked math and problem solving, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. The summer before my first semester of college I had an eye doctor appointment for a check up, but mostly just to get an updated prescription for contacts.
After examining my eye, my optometrist said that my optic nerves appeared to be swollen -- an indicator for various other medical concerns, including brain tumor. I was sent straight to the hospital, as that was the quickest way to have an MRI done. My MRI turned out completely normal, but I still had to see various specialists throughout the following weeks and months to try and diagnose the reason for the abnormal appearance of my optic nerves.
In that claustrophobic MRI scanner as well as throughout my various tests and run-ins with medical technology, I had quite a bit of time to think about my future as well as the lives of people with diagnosed medical conditions. This experience is what made me realize the direction I wanted to take engineering and my career.
What are some really cool things that people in your profession work on?
Biomedical engineers make artificial organs and implement technologies that allow people to live improved lives. One research project that I was involved in was focused on finding preventative methods for concussions resulting from collisions in sports.
My group and I did a lot of research to find out all of the biological processes behind concussions as well as what kinds of technology were already out there being used in the real world. We ended up producing various models of a cap that stimulates the neurons and happenings within the brain through the use of magnets.
At the beginning of the project, we had no idea what we were going to do and felt completely lost, but it was really cool working it out with my group and seeing how far we progressed throughout the project.
What inspirational message would you give young girls to inspire them to pursue STEM?
If you like solving problems and exploring the reasons behind answers, I would really encourage you to pursue STEM, as there is nothing more rewarding than overcoming obstacles and finishing a project. And who knows, that project may one day be connecting parts of the world, leading towards a greener more sustainable Earth, or saving lives.
Thank you for contributing, Emelia!
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