Q: Which program at UCSD do you recommend to students interested in bioengineering?
Joining the Open Viral Load team of Global TIES my sophomore year was my first real exposure to bioengineering, and trying out this project turned out to be the best decision of my whole life because it brings diverse people together in interdisciplinary teams. Now that I’m out in the real world and working not only with bioengineers, I realize how important [working in interdisciplinary teams] really is. I need to explain things to people who may or may not know what I’m talking about.
Q: What does bioengineering mean to you?
I hear people say pretty often that there is no place for bioengineers. They claim that people with biology and mechanical engineering backgrounds can do what bioengineers can do and more. However, as I spend more time in the bioengineering field, I realize how inaccurate this perspective is. A mechanical engineer can run and build an instrument, but you need to have a biological and chemical background to apply [mechanical engineering] to biology. A device could be running perfectly from a mechanical perspective, yet it could kill our samples. During my senior year, I took BENG 186A: Principles of Biomaterials Design, where I learned that ultimately, a bioengineer must build a functional device and understand how it needs to work with the body, while being true to our physiology. Ideally, any team should have a biologist, a mechanical engineer, and a bioengineer within reach.
Q: How did your undergraduate experience at UCSD prepare you for your job at Illumina?
The learning curve for me at Illumina was steep, but I think one of the most important reasons why [I was hired] is because of my extensive team experience. You need to be receptive to people trying to teach you, but you also need to give back and be able to explain concepts to them. This is especially [applicable to bioengineering] because health is becoming an increasingly interdisciplinary field, and we need to communicate with people from other fields. Bioengineering at UCSD teaches students how to learn. When you start your new job, you most likely won’t understand exactly what they are working on fully; you have to know how to learn. This skill that I learned at UCSD is what prepared me the most, more than any [of my] classes.