After returning from Costa Rica, I didn’t know exactly what to expect for this semester. Would it feel like undergraduate, just different classes? What was Rice like? How would my project go? I had so many questions, only time and experience would answer them.
After Hurricane Harvey disrupted classes for a week and devastated parts of the city, I started to settle into “normal.” But what is “normal” for a GMI student? Normal is taking 14.5 hours of classes: statistics, communications, projects, and career advising. Normal is busy but making time to play flag football and get involved in a church. Normal is joking that “everything is going to be fine” with teammates when everyone’s body language screams stressed. Normal is the feeling of elation when the app you’re building finally takes a picture correctly. Normal is the beautiful Rice campus where students band together for common goals and competition takes a back seat. Normal is Dr. Richardson meeting one-on-one to offer guidance and resources for projects and classes. Normal has exceeded my expectations of the work required, knowledge gained, progress made, and fulfillment reaped.
My favorite part of normal life are the projects that I get to work on. Currently, I am working on two projects and mentoring a third. My primary project is Consultika. It is a phone app intended to aid gynecologists in Costa Rica in remotely diagnosing rural patients. It falls into a category of health care called telemedicine. It was designed by previous Rice students and now I am bringing their design to life by engineering the app’s functionality. When completed, Consultika will be able to send messages and pictures, collect patient data, receive patient consent, and more. I am enjoying working on an app because I am learning tons about how to make an app. This is important to me because I believe that apps and computer technology are the future of healthcare.
My second project is a team project with Anna, two MBA students, and a medical fellow. We are working on redesigning the device that collects heart biopsies. Currently, the device is shaped like a catheter with a set of jaws at the end (see picture below). We are striving to implement something that will allow doctors to better see where the jaws are located in the heart to increase the safety of the procedure. And my third project consists of a team of three senior global health students from Rice who are working on a gynecology training device. I am their TA and so aid them how I can and will be grading their papers. Mentoring is a new role for me and I am eager to learn through it. Additionally, their project loosely relates to Consultika because they are both gynecology projects which helps both of us.
Apart from my projects, I am taking classes in bioengineering statistics, engineering communications, and bioengineering career exploration. In my statistics class, we program the computer to analyze data to give us insight into many bioengineering concerns such as the accuracy of a test or the probability of a false positive. I love my communications class in which we are practicing our presentation skills and learning tips and tricks to improve them. We are also learning how to analyze the audience in order to shape our messages to be more relevant to them. And in my career class, we get to listen to and interact with someone from a different company each week. The goal of this class is to expose us to various jobs in bioengineering and to help us obtain a job after graduation.
In addition to my classes, I am growing personally in many ways. I am learning how to manage my time; Dr. Richardson requires that we submit a timesheet each week with seventeen hours spent on GMI work outside of class time. This is helping me to organize my schedule and challenging me to schedule in time to rest as well. Moreover, for Consultika, I am managing my own project. This is forcing me to prioritize work to be done and also to be proactive in obtaining the resources I need. I am also transitioning from being a college student to being a functioning adult. This includes things like furnishing my apartment, developing a professional network and (wearing something besides t-shirts to do so), making friends through events and groups outside of school, and scheduling my work alongside time to rest. As an undergrad I was able to avoid most of these, but no longer. I am beginning to feel like an adult.