Skip to main content

​Student Profiles

Graduate StudentsPhD StudentsUndergraduate Students

Graduate Students

Philip McCormick

Philip McCormick

Master of Engineering Management

Hometown: Waterford, Conn.

Employer: Pfizer Inc.

What played into your decision to get a graduate engineering degree?

It is an appropriate degree for advancement in company (Pfizer).

Why did you pick WashU?

It is the best school in the area.

What was your favorite course and why?

Strategic Management of Innovation

Who is your favorite instructor and why?

Tom Kulik. Tom provides a relaxed and realistic way of looking at different product and process innovations and promotes creativity in how different technologies can be implemented into a number of fields originally thought unthinkable.

What advice would you give to a new student?

Be proactive in your education. Professors are more than willing to go the extra mile for you to help you understand, and learn to rely on your fellow students for extra expertise in their field. Collaboration is critical once you are in the workforce, so you may as well get started while in school.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?

The food scene is very underrated. Clayton, Maplewood, the Delmar Loop and Tower Grove all have a massive variety of food and drink to offer. Second Shift brewery is one of my favorites for fun craft beers combined with board games and Guerrilla Street Food.

Do you have any work history? If yes, please describe.

Professional baseball player, San Francisco Giants organization (five years - up to AAA)
R&D work at Pfizer Inc. (two years)

What are your plans for the future?

Once I've finished my engineering management degree, I plan to go into my company's business operations group to combine finance and R&D experience to advance my company with new technologies and higher efficiencies.



Ying-Chiang (Jeffery) Lee

Ying-Chiang (Jeffery) Lee

Master of Energy, Environment & Chemical Engineering

Hometown: Dallas

What program are you in?

Energy, Environment & Chemical Engineering

What is your area of research:

In Prof. Tae Seok Moon's lab, engineering probiotics to regulate neurotransmitters. In Skip Virgin's Lab at the School of Medicine, examining virus-receptor interactions.

Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?

WashU

What played into your decision to get a graduate engineering degree?

The multidisciplinary aspect of the MEng degree. My graduate public health education provided a holistic and broad foundation while the engineering degree provides the tools and technical competency to address many global health and biological issues/questions.

What campus activities or groups would you recommend to a new student?

Global Health Student Advisory Committee - I am the vice president and treasurer.

Ultimate Frisbee - I'm one of the oldest people on the team.

Field Hockey - an exciting and relatively new club sport at WashU.

Are there any not-for-profit agencies that you have volunteered or worked with?

Empower Through Health (I am currently a health operations associate) in Uganda, Consortium of Universities for Global Health (I am currently one of the WashU representatives), Maji Safi Group, Meds & Foods for Kids (all were short international experiences I acquired during my public health degree).

What are your plans for the future?

I will be enrolling in doctoral programs this fall, to study genetics or microbiology (still deciding on which school and research focus). Eventually, I hope to make an impact on advancing global health, either by working in industry, government, nonprofits/NGOs or academia. The exact profession is less important to me than the potential impact I may have — to defend, save and improve the health and wellness of people around the world.

Why did you pick WashU?

I chose WashU because of the academic rigor, diverse research opportunities and outstanding faculty.

What was your favorite course and why?

Environmental organic chemistry taught by Professor John Fortner was my favorite course (taken during the first semester of my MEng studies). A good professor makes the material come alive and teaches with an almost urgency — an urgency to impart knowledge upon his or her students. Professor Fortner certainly taught with this urgency and energy.

What advice would you give to a new student?

Pack your schedule as much as you can. WashU has so much to offer and there is so much to do, explore, research and learn. Graduate school can pass by so quickly (at least for a master's student) so don't hesitate to take on new tasks or opportunities that may come your way.

Work hard, and work harder.

Don't be afraid to fail. Failure is your best teacher and with some planning, reflection and advice from your trusted advisors, mentors, and friends, you can come back swinging.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?

The people! Everyone is friendly.


Hollie Zhang

Hollie Zhang

Master of Project Management
Masters of Data Analytics & Statistics

What played into your decision to get a graduate engineering degree?

Many companies prefer graduate students; the Master of Science in Data Analytics and Statistics (MSDAS) program is attractive since it is a combination of statistics and computer science and it happens to be in the engineering school.

Why did you pick WashU?

Great reputation (overall rank).

What advice would you give to a new student?

Enjoy being a WashU Bear! Especially as an undergraduate student, you will have a lot of fun here, you will live and study with many intelligent students, and the university will provide job opportunities and career guidance for you.

What campus activities or groups would you recommend to a new student?

WashU Sumers Recreation Center! There are plenty of choices for you to work out as well as have fun!

Are there any not-for-profit agencies that you have volunteered or worked with?

IJGD, Germany (volunteer)

What are your plans for the future?

Go with the flow.



Brandon Alvis

Brandon Alvis

Master of Project Management

Hometown: O'Fallon, IL

Employer: The Boeing Co.

Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

What played into your decision to get a graduate engineering degree?

Career development

Why did you pick WashU?

History, reputation, academics

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?

Baseball, Forest Park

Do you have any work history? If yes, please describe.

Six-year military veteran, flight line aircraft mechanic; 2.5 years as an industrial engineer at The Boeing Co.

Are there any not-for-profit agencies that you have volunteered or worked with?

Veterans Task Force

What are your plans for the future?

Continue expanding education, developing business leadership skills, eventually move into a leadership position in production and/or business operations.


Tony Liu

Tony Liu

Master of Project Management
Master of Engineering Management

Hometown: China

Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?

Michigan State University

What played into your decision to get a graduate engineering degree?

The graduate engineering degree provides a broader knowledge background emphasizing management and understanding of how business works. Engineers know how to build and design but don't know how an individual can work effectively with others.

Why did you pick WashU?

1. Academic ranking

2. Professional network

3. Flexibility

4. Location, a relatively small city with the capacity of a big city.

What was your favorite course and why?

Art & Science of Risk Management: Practical skills of evaluating risks for better managing the project.

Who is your favorite instructor and why?

Ozzie Lomax. He is open-minded, critical and understanding, has empathy, and empowers students.

What advice would you give to a new student?

Understand what you really want from your degree program and take classes to benefit yourself.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?

Sports, food, parks

What campus activities or groups would you recommend to a new student?

Balsa Group for individuals interested in consulting.

Do you have any work history? If yes, please describe.

Keylogic Consulting Group, associate consultant.

One Dollar Fund, co-founder. Affiliate foundation of Mango V Foundation, concentrated on supporting left-behind children in rural villages in China.

Are there any not-for-profit agencies that you have volunteered or worked with?

One Dollar Fund & Harvard SEED

What are your plans for the future?

Join an HR consulting firm, focus on developing project-based elementary education program and impact investing.


Keith Jones

Keith Jones

Master of Construction Management
Certificate in Project Management

Hometown: St. Louis. MO

Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?

WashU

What played into your decision to get a graduate engineering degree?

I chose the Master of Construction Management program because of my intense love and appreciation for the built environment, and the men and women who work every day to make our communities, our nation and our planet a wonderful place to live, work and play.

Why did you pick WashU?

I chose WashU because I wanted to be associated with the best. And after completing the Master of Construction Management program, I will join an elite list of alumni dedicated to transforming the built environment.

What was your favorite course and why?

My favorite MCM course was the construction fundamentals because as we move along the road to mastery, it will be the fundamentals that we will rely on as during the times of uncertainty and stagnation. Knowing the fundamentals will keep you sharp.

Who is your favorite instructor and why?

Steve Bannes is my favorite instructor. His guidance and counsel has helped to broaden my understanding of the built environment, and his encouragement has fueled my passion.

What advice would you give to a new student?

Get involved.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?

The people.

Do you have any work history?

I began my construction career in 2001 after graduating from high school. My first job was working for my grandparents for their home remodeling company. Shortly after joining them as a laborer, I started providing weatherization services for the Urban League of Metro St. Louis. After several successful years in business, I was recruited to join the Urban League as a home energy auditor. From there I worked my way up to become the director of weatherization-field services. After nearly seven years at the Urban League, I joined Roanoke Construction as a project engineer. That opportunity led me to my current position as senior project estimator for PARIC Corp.

Are there any not-for-profit agencies that you have volunteered or worked with?

The Urban League of Metro St. Louis

What are your plans for the future?

My plan is to continue my journey toward understanding and managing the complexities of the built environment.


Tiffany Sucharski

Tiffany Sucharski

Master of Information Systems Management

Hometown: Farmington, MO

Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

What played into your decision to get a graduate engineering degree?

I began working at The Boeing Co., and there are always conversations and meetings about planning your future career and where you want to see yourself in one year, three years, five years, etc. From the moment I found out that Boeing would help pay for me to get a master's degree, I knew it was something I wanted to pursue. Given the area I work in, getting a graduate degree in engineering made sense and could help expand my career in my current area or give me the opportunity to explore another function within the company.

Why did you pick WashU?

WashU was one of many universities that Boeing would help pay for, but the prestige behind WashU's name would allow me to take my talent to other career opportunities within Boeing or even another company.

What was your favorite course and why?

I have enjoyed all of the courses I have taken so far, but my favorite and most challenging course thus far has been the Risk Management course. Given the opportunity, I would take the course again simply to absorb even more knowledge and information than I did the first time. It was also the first course in which I was able to take the exact content I was learning in the course and apply it to my position at Boeing. With that information, I am helping to save our company more than $8 million.

Who is your favorite instructor and why?

I couldn't pick a favorite at this point — the three instructors I have had for four classes have all been amazing in different ways. Mike Jenkins was my instructor for two cybersecurity classes, and his knowledge of the field was critical in understanding concepts and current events. Ozzie Lomax, my Risk Management instructor, has retired from Ameren, has his own risk management consulting company and has allowed me to analyze my everyday life choices in a completely different way. Finally, Susan Bandi who teaches Privacy in the Digital Age, is currently part of the global privacy office within Monsanto and has helped me to understand the vast amount of integration and coordination between a privacy office and a security office and why it is becoming so important to pay attention to privacy.

What advice would you give to a new student?

Take all of the classes you can, talk to your professors about their own failures, memories, lessons learned and greatest experiences. All of these professors are also professionals and can give you real-world examples of how you can apply concepts to your own professional career. Always participate in classroom discussions — this is where you glean information from peers, coworkers and other professionals about what is happening in the professional world now, and how you can help improve and change culture, processes or entire ways of thinking.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?

My favorite thing about St. Louis is that in 10-20 minutes in any given direction you have something new and exciting to do. Whether it's downtown, Dogtown, South City, Central West End, or downtown Clayton, there is always something going on and always great restaurants to try and bands to listen to.

Do you have any work history?

I worked with a small plastics manufacturing company for four years as an IT data analyst/developer/end user support, etc. It was a small company so I had to wear many hats and learned a little bit about a lot of IT-related topics. Once I felt like I had reached a point that I had gained enough knowledge to move to another company, I applied for a job with The Boeing Co. as an IT systems and data analyst.

What are your plans for the future?

My plans for the future are to finish my graduate degree by 2021 and use this as a springboard to the next step in my career. Since I started with The Boeing Co., I have always had aspirations to break into management, and the education and experiences I have and will gain from WashU, will help that become a reality.


Kinga Pabjan

Kinga Pabjan

Masters of Architecture
Masters of Construction Management

Yes, please provide your lab name and area of research:

A46 ARCH 530B Exploring Dynamo BIM: A Highly Customized 3D Printing House (Prof. Hongxi Yin)

Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?

University of Florida, Bachelors of Design in Architecture

What played into your decision to get a graduate engineering degree?

I interned for a year at a design-build firm in St. Petersburg, Florida and saw the importance and value of construction management as a critical component in the process of creating a building. I believe it is important for an architect to be able to carry out their design, partake in it's construction, and manage their own design. A joint degree with Architecture and Construction Management is the perfect solution for understanding the connection between design and execution.

Why did you pick WashU?

Several reasons: it is a prestigious University with a top ranking Architecture program, it allows for easy and flexible completion of dual degrees (such as Architecture and Construction Management), and financial aid.

What was your favorite course and why?

Trees, Soils, & Systems: Introduction to Aboriculture (FL2017.A48.LAND.560A.01)

This was a Landscape Architecture course that I chose as an elective, led by Professor Carolyn Gaidis. Students gathered knowledge of trees and soils, and their relationship within our sustainable environment. It was an extremely informative, experimental, interactive and fun class which involved a lot of outdoor activities, experiments, and field trips relating to the topic.

Who is your favorite instructor and why?

Professor Guy Augenstein who taught ) Construction Cost Estimating (SP2018.T64.CNST.523A.01). He is very passionate about the topic, teaches in an interactive manner, provides fun and collaborative assignments and (believe it or not) exams.

What advice would you give to a new student?

Do not be afraid to explore courses outside of your major or comfort zone. They may turn out to be your favorite courses and you will learn something new. Also it can be extremely fun.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?

The variety of outdoor activities that there are: Forest Park, Botanical Gardens, Markets and Festivals.

Where are you from?

Poland

What campus activities or groups would you recommend to a new student?

WashU intramural sports. It is important to stay active during the school year. You do not have to be an athlete to be on a team and play with and against other students from the University. It is an easy and fun way to escape for an hour each week to be active.

Do you have any work history? If yes, please describe.

Wannemacher Jensen Architects : Design-Build Firm in St. Petersburg, Florida - Architectural Intern

Research Assistant at WashU: Design and Build and Energy Efficient Home using 3D printed technology for Solar Decathlon China

Sabre: Software Company in Krakow, Poland - Lead workshops about sketch-noting

Soft Computer Consultants: Software Company in Clearwater, Florida - Data Processing

Are there any not-for-profit agencies that you have volunteered or worked with?

Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity

What are your plans for the future?

Receive my Architects license and manage projects which focus on sustainable design.


Ashlee Cooksey

Ashlee Cooksey

Master of Architecture and Construction Management

Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?

Florida A&M University

What played into your decision to get a graduate engineering degree?

Before I began pursuing a graduate engineering degree, I was already pursuing a graduate degree in Architecture. Obtaining a graduate degree in Construction Management, I felt, would help me understand all aspects of design and building construction and make me more knowledgeable about project details when pursuing my career.

Why did you pick WashU?

I relocated to St. Louis a year before deciding to go back to school. WashU was the only institution, that I knew of, in St. Louis that had everything to offer when it came to my field(s) of study.

What was your favorite course and why?

My favorite course was Legal Aspects of Architecture and Construction. Lawsuits are very common in the field of Architecture and Construction Management and the information provided in this class helped me further understand how to run a successful architectural and building construction practice.

Who is your favorite instructor and why?

My favorite instructor is Stephen Bannes. He is extremely knowledgeable, approachable, and helpful.

What advice would you give to a new student?

I would advise a new student to remain diligent even when things seem to get overwhelming; time management is key.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?

My favorite thing about St. Louis is the low cost of living and the plethora of opportunities for me, in particular, in my field(s) of study.

Where are you from?

Atlanta, Georgia

What campus activities or groups would you recommend to a new student?

I do not have a special one in particular but I would say chose the activity/group that best fits you and what you want to achieve during your time at WashU.

Do you have any work history? If yes, please describe.

Yes. For about two years, I interned at an architecture firm in Atlanta, Georgia called Lightroom Studio under an architect by the name of William Carpenter, FAIA. There, I worked on construction documents for a few residential projects and assisted with events Lightroom was featured in such as Modern Atlanta. I have also interned at Jacobs Engineering as a Junior Facility Planner. There, I assisted with deciding on planning solutions for government facilities that worked best for their particular task and I assisted with writing reports that specifically discussed the problems and our solutions. Lastly, I have interned at Kwame Building Group as a Field Inspector. I oversaw progress on the Coldwater Creek Box Culvert Replacement project at St. Louis Lambert International Airport and wrote reports to track the progress and keep up with the budget.

Are there any not-for-profit agencies that you have volunteered or worked with?

Building Futures

What are your plans for the future?

My future plans include acquiring a role at a construction management or design-build firm. My long-term goals include becoming a Project Manager and licensed architect.


David Shoemaker

David Shoemaker

Masters of Architecture
Masters of Construction Management

Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?

Bard College

What played into your decision to get a graduate engineering degree?

During my undergraduate career I was able to pair two rather different areas of study with studio art and physics. I found a balance between the creative and the scientific aspects of myself and learning in general. Entering into my Masters education I knew that I could add be more specific in developing the skills I learned through that experience in a more specific and purposeful manner. The MCM program offers a realistic lens that informs my architecture projects and more aptly prepares me for a profession in the built environment.

Why did you pick WashU?

Coming from the East Coast I know that WashU has a reputation that reaches beyond the Midwest. It lives up to its reputation with the amount of resources it offers in every aspect of education, ranging from the professors themselves to the facilities in which we study.

What was your favorite course and why?

Fundamentals of Construction Management has been one of my favorite classes. Even without Steve (who is the heart and soul of the MCM program) the course offers an overview of what Construction Management is and how we can apply its principles to the way we work.

Who is your favorite instructor and why?

In the School of Engineering my favorite professor has been Steve Bannes. I think that through his work in the profession he gained a real appreciation for what architects do and through that experience he has been able to help me, and my fellow classmates, learn exactly what we need to know in a fun way!

What advice would you give to a new student?

Take Fundamentals of Construction Management. The rest of the advice I would give can be learned in that class.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?

My favorite thing about St. Louis is its status as a hidden gem. I've lived in St. Louis and I've never run out of things to do and my friends in New York don't believe me. Also, the food, of course.

Where are you from?

Buffalo, New York

Do you have any work history? If yes, please describe.

I worked all through high school and college, but the most applicable work experience was my recent architecture internship with Gray Design Group in St. Louis.

What are your plans for the future?

First I need to graduate from the M.Arch/MCM program! After that I hope to obtain a position that allows me to utilize the skills I have gained in both programs simultaneously.


PhD Students

Shuo (Linda) Wang

Shuo (Linda) Wang

PhD Student, Systems Science & Mathematics

Hometown: Beijing

Please provide your lab and description of research.

Applied Mathematics Lab (Professor Jr-Shin Li): Systems mathematics, optimization, optimal ensemble control, computational method, networks

Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?

Peking University, China

What played into your decision to get a graduate engineering degree?

The broad impact of the research topic on interdisciplinary areas, including social study, biomedicine, neuroscience, quantum physics, etc. The desire to make life better through engineering modeling and design. For example, one can design the optimal firing patterns in neuroscience to treat neuronal disorders; design optimal ensemble control to quantum spins in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and imaging (MRI); design optimal dosage of chemotherapeutic drugs to treat cancer.

Why did you pick WashU?

The friendly and outstanding people, faculty and staff, the open environment for collaboration, and the beautiful campus.

What was your favorite course and why?

Nonlinear Control / Optimization / Stochastic Control

These courses are extremely helpful.

Who is your favorite instructor and why?

Prof. Jr-Shin Li and Prof. Heinz Schaettler. They have made the complicated mathematics alive and useful.

What advice would you give to a new student?

Enjoy life here by challenging yourself, both academia and life.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?

Forest Park, especially the Muny Opera.

What campus activities or groups would you recommend to a new student?

AGES

What are your plans for the future?

Being a faculty member and continuing the research.



Conor O'Neill

Conor O'Neill

PhD Student, Biomedical Engineering

Please provide your lab and description of research.

I'm currently rotating in the Pappu Lab, where I'm currently exploring patchy colloid models of self-assembly. Proteins undergo phase separation to form a variety of membraneless bodies in cells. These bodies form when cells are stressed. They also form as a way to organize biochemical reactions. Intracellular phase separation, driven by so-called multivalent proteins, is an important and rapidly evolving area of research. This is because aberrant phase separation can give rise to altered cell fates leading to cancer and / or initiating the onset of neurodegeneration in diseases such as ALS. Recent studies have uncovered a major role for glycolytic enzymes in the regulation of synapses, which play central roles in forming short-term memories. The glycolytic enzymes are biological instantiations of what physicists refer to as patchy colloids. My project revolves around uncovering the design principles for the phase behavior of patchy colloids in cellular milieus. This work is being driven by computer simulations and theoretical calculations.

Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?

Northwestern University

What played into your decision to get a graduate engineering degree?

I've always enjoyed research and known I wanted to spend my career in academia, and PhD programs are an excellent way to both develop skills in particular areas of interest and to become a better scientist overall.

Why did you pick WashU?

My undergraduate PI received his doctorate from WashU and always spoke very highly of the BME department, its graduate program, and the university as a whole. When I began applying to schools senior year, I found the research being performed by nearly every department member to be incredibly impressive.

What was your favorite course and why?

So far, my favorite course is Chemistry and Physics of Biomolecules. Its topics are closely related to my lab's work and while there's certainly a steep learning curve when entering a new field, this class has managed to cover topics quickly and thoroughly without being unnecessarily stressful.

Who is your favorite instructor and why?

I've really enjoyed Prof. Jay Ponder's style of teaching. His enthusiasm for the field keeps students engaged and he has the wonderful ability to accessibly present concepts while still covering all the details necessary to a thorough understanding.

What advice would you give to a new student?

Focus on absorbing relevant concepts instead of getting straight-A's. Take classes that will help you in your research, ones that either introduce (or re-introduce) you to the core ideas of the field or ones that you think could be applied alongside your lab's current directions.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?

Forest Park is incredible, it's quickly become my go-to route for morning runs.

Where are you from?

Chicago

What campus activities or groups would you recommend to a new student?

Stay connected with your class and go to random events together, you usually end up having fun regardless of the activity.


Evan Buettmann

Evan Buettmann

PhD Student, Biomedical Engineering

Hometown: St. Louis

Please provide your lab and description of research.

Biomedical Engineering Lab in Orthopaedic Biomechanics (Prof. Matthew Silva)

My dissertation research is aimed at understanding the role that cell-derived factors play in bone regeneration during healing.

Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?

University of Missouri-Columbia

What played into your decision to get a graduate engineering degree?

My natural curiosity, love of undergraduate research, and desire to teach students.

Why did you pick WashU?

It is one of the best biomedical and orthopedic research institutions in the country. Also, I am from St. Louis, so being close to home was nice.

What was your favorite course and why?

Orthopaedic Biomechanics. It gave me the knowledge I needed to understand the complex mechanical behavior of bone.

Fatigue and Fracture Mechanics. It widened my understanding of fatigue based mechanisms of damage, and I applied it to my own research.

Who is your favorite instructor and why?

Lori Setton. Lori uses a lot of engaging and collaborative learning techniques in her classroom such as problem-based learning and student-led lectures. In addition, she is a great mentor who wants students to use extracurricular clubs and groups to further their career goals.

What advice would you give to a new student?

Talk to older undergraduate and graduate students in the programs to learn how to get the most out of your education.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?

Free venues in Forest Park that showcase the regions rich culture and arts.

What campus activities or groups would you recommend to a new student?

PROSPER

Balsa

Young Scientist Program

Teaching Center

What are your plans for the future?

Postdoctoral studies, Engineering faculty Position


Audrey Dang

Audrey Dang

PhD Student, Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering

Please provide your lab and description of research.

Atmospheric Chemistry and Technology Laboratory (Prof. Brent Williams)

Developing analytical instruments for measurements of chemicals in the air including in particles and deploying these instruments in both laboratory and field studies. Examples: indoor/outdoor air chemistry interactions, biomass burning from forest fires, coal combustion, low-cost sensors, volatile organic compound measurements, carbon monoxide measurements.

Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?

Vanderbilt University

What played into your decision to get a graduate engineering degree?

Technical training to advance climate and health-relevant science as well as to bring that science to discussions among community members including business and policy leaders. I was interested in gaining experience in teaching and mentoring students while working on challenging and meaningful technical problems.



Alex Reiter

Alex Reiter

PhD Student, Mechanical Engineering

Please provide your lab and description of research.

Musculoskeletal Soft Tissue Lab (Prof. Spencer Lake). I investigate the effectiveness of therapeutic strategies in our model of elbow pathology.

Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?

West Point

What played into your decision to get a graduate engineering degree?

Overuse and acute musculoskeletal injuries are very prevalent in the military because of the high physical demands. I became increasingly interested in the mechanics of the human body and what might be leading to these high injury rates. Making a career switch from an active-duty Army aviation officer with a background in aerodynamics to a researcher in biomechanics required a graduate engineering degree.

Why did you pick WashU?

Many times, departure dates from the military get moved around by several weeks or months while you are waiting for your paperwork to be approved. My case was no different and caused a lot of stress as I was trying to figure out graduate schools while my wife searched for employment.

After my first email correspondence with Prof. Dave Peters, I knew WashU was where I needed to be. I emailed him out of the blue inquiring about graduate school as he was the mechanical engineering director of graduate studies at the time. The application window was about to close in two days, and he quickly walked me through the process to get everything started. For reasons unknown to me, they still considered my application even though I didn't have all the required documents submitted until nearly a month after the deadline.

The entire MEMS department was incredibly understanding of my unique situation and remained flexible as things changed. I cannot say enough positive things about the support I received from the MEMS faculty and staff.

It would be remiss not to mention the incredible engineering academic program and research. This is what initially led me to consider WashU but my previous statement is definitely what set WashU apart from other universities.

What was your favorite course and why?

Orthopedic biomechanics. It was my first course in biomechanics and reassured me that I had made the right decision.

Where are you from?

Quincy, IL

What campus activities or groups would you recommend to a new student?

For veterans, I would say to get involved with the campus-wide student veterans association, WUVets.

Do you have any work history? If yes, please describe.

Served as an aviation officer in the Army from 2010-2016.

What are your plans for the future?

Biomechanics research


Undergraduate Students

Anna Eddelbuettel

Anna Eddelbuettel

Undergraduate Student, Biomedical Engineering

Are you performing any research in a lab?

Yes, in the Pappu Lab -- Intrinsically Disordered Proteins

Why did you pick WashU?

I chose WashU because of the collaborative engineering community, stellar student support, and generous scholarship offerings.

What was your favorite course and why?

I have a hard time choosing just one course as a favorite. The ways that material from different courses builds on one another makes each semester better than the one before! Hearing concepts from varying perspectives just makes me appreciate them more.

Who is your favorite instructor and why?

Professor Hasting is the best math professor I have ever had. Her teaching abilities are unparalleled. I was challenged and empowered to tackle difficult problems.

What advice would you give to a new student?

I would advise a new student to really invest in friendships with their peers. The relationships with those around you make the experience here so uniquely memorable.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?

The parks and bike-ability of St. Louis are my favorite - particularly Tower Grove Park, Shaw Park, and Forest Park.

Where are you from?

Oak Park, IL

What campus activities or groups would you recommend to a new student?

I would recommend Studio: TESLA, club sports (especially women's soccer!), and the religious groups on campus.

Do you have any work history? If yes, please describe.

I started working in the Pappu Lab during the summer of 2018 and still continue doing research there. I also worked for a non-profit called Son Servants the summer of 2018. The organization supports high school and middle school students and their leaders to serve on short term service projects both domestically and abroad. I hope to continue onto graduate school in biomedical engineering and eventually teach in a university setting.



Kevin Spehar

Kevin Spehar

Undergraduate Student, Biomedical Engineering

Are you performing any research in a lab?

I am working in the Bieschke Lab & Lew Lab: Single-Molecule Super-Resolution Imaging of Amyloid Structures Using Transient Amyloid Binding

Why did you pick WashU?

I was fortunate enough to receive a generous financial aid package which allowed me to attend WashU to pursue the pre-med track.

What was your favorite course and why?

Biochem II (Chem 482/Biol 4820). It was a well taught course, and I found the material really interesting. Much off the content from the course has been applicable for many other classes that I have taken since as well as for my lab research.

Who is your favorite instructor and why?

Dr. Gary Patti was the professor for Biochem II, and he made the course really interesting. He explained the material well and made time for students to meet with him and discuss the material.

What advice would you give to a new student?

Don't be afraid to explore other options and pursue potential interests. If you want to work in a lab, contact the professor(s) you're interested in to see if they will take you on. If you're premed, but you think you might be interested in something else, try taking other classes unrelated to the premed track, and you might find something you like more. Don't be afraid to get help for classes, health, or concerns in general. There are a lot of people on campus that would be happy to help.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?

I really like Forest Park. It's a great place to run, bike, or just hang out. There's a bunch of stuff to do in the park as well.

Where are you from?

Orlando-Atlanta-Finland-China

What campus activities or groups would you recommend to a new student?

American Red Cross Club and Circle K (for volunteering), Engineering World Health (for designing new stuff, Note: you don't have to be an engineering major to join). Join a few social clubs (Cultural ones, A Cappella, Dance, etc); Whichever ones interest you the most. Intramural or club sports (Would Recommend Ultimate Frisbee-Contra/Contraband)

Do you have any work history? If yes, please describe.

Current: Lew Lab Undergraduate Researcher and Engineering Undergraduate Student Services Tutor. Past: Biochem II AI, Bieschke Lab Undergraduate Researcher, Mathnasium Instructor

Are there any not-for-profit agencies that you have volunteered or worked with?

American Red Cross

What are your plans for the future?

I am currently applying for MD/PhD programs to become a physician-scientist to conduct aging-related research and practice geriatric medicine.


Jonathan Smith

Jonathan Smith

Undergraduate Student, Mechanical Engineering

Hometown: Albany, N.Y.

Are you doing any research?

Working on metallic glasses (Prof. Kathy Flores).

Why did you pick WashU?

They offered me the most money, and the financial aid office was very easy to work with.

What was your favorite course and why?

Materials Science is definitely my favorite course. I like it mostly because it just made sense to me, and Professor Flores is a great professor. Additionally, it was the first class in which I felt like I was learning something I would be using in a job as an engineer or researcher.

Who is your favorite instructor and why?

Dr. Hasting. She's very organized and a good lecturer in the classroom, but also very warm and more than willing to help outside of it. She makes an effort to learn everyone's name over the course of the semester, which I think is just one of the many ways she makes it known that she truly cares for her students and wants them to succeed.

What advice would you give to a new student?

Do what you want — your life is in your hands now, more so than ever before in your life. It can be really easy to slip into doing too much in certain aspects of college, and too little in others. I would just say be mindful and try to strike a good life balance. Since a "good life balance" is something that varies from person to person, I won't go into too much detail. What worked for me was trying a bunch of new things, seeing what stuck, and doing a review every so often to see if something is still worth my attention and if there's something else I could try instead. With that said, don't be afraid to try new things, but also don't feel obliged to keep going with something that no longer holds your interest.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?

The City Museum. Also the fact that it's a huge chess city, but mostly the City Museum.

Do you have any work history??

I've worked three different work-study jobs at WashU, and I might be adding a fourth. I've worked in the Performing Arts Department as a scene shop crew member since freshman fall. The scene shop is responsible for building the sets for shows put on by the department each semester, as well as some general maintenance, and miscellaneous other tasks. In my sophomore fall, I worked as a computer science teaching assistant for the introductory course, 131, and in the spring, I started working as a 3-D printing technician at STS.

What campus activities or groups would you recommend to a new student?

WUBS (Washington University Beatboxing Society). It's a club a few friends of mine started with me. We're still only three semesters old, but we've got a few performances under our belts and are always happy to welcome new members!

What are your plans for the future?

I don't really know yet, but I think I'll probably go to grad school. Whether that's here or somewhere else, I don't know at the moment. I would say my only real plans are to learn as much as I can now, so the future me can make an informed decision about what he wants to do. Since I'm not the future version of me, I have absolutely no idea what he wants to do. All I can do is work hard give him skills, knowledge and experience to use when he decides what plans to make for himself.



Kate Padilla

Kate Padilla

Undergraduate Student, Mechanical Engineering & Applied Science

Hometown: Weslaco, Texas

Are you performing any research?

Yes, micromechanical testing of earth materials (Prof. Kathy Flores).

Why did you pick WashU?

I wanted to go to a university with a smaller class size so I could interact more with my professors. I also liked the flexibility WashU has in allowing you to explore other majors outside your department.

What was your favorite course and why?

My favorite courses so far have been Fluid Mechanics and Materials Science. I enjoyed the material of both classes and could tell the professors were passionate about the topics. The class format was also a bit different and helped me to retain information a lot better.

Who is your favorite instructor and why?

One of my favorite WashU professors would have to be Prof. Boyd. She's been my professor for a few classes and is my adviser. Whenever I have any questions about a class, my schedule, graduate school applications, or just need any advice in general, it's so nice to know that she's always willing to listen and help me out any way that she can. She also genuinely cares about students in her classes and looks for ways to improve her courses so that students can learn better and enjoy the material more.

What advice would you give to a new student?

Don't be afraid to approach your professors and ask for help. It's a great way to improve your learning in a course and get to know them better. Professors have so much knowledge they are willing to share with students as long as we're willing to ask. They can also help guide you during your time in school to achieve your goals and be successful.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?

Where I'm from, it's usually hot all year long with a few cold days in winter. My first year in St. Louis I loved being able to experience the different seasons. Walking in Forest Park during Fall is one of my favorite things to do during the year.

Do you have any work history??

During the school year, I work as a student assistant at Cornerstone. It's a wonderful environment to work in and is rewarding to be able to help fellow students be successful during their time in college.

What campus activities or groups would you recommend to a new student?

The Campus Y is a great group to get involved in as a way to help give back to the community and share what you've learned in your life so far with local school kids.

What are your plans for the future?

I would like to go to graduate school for materials science and work on sustainable or energy materials in the future.



Peter Sharpe

Peter Sharpe

Undergraduate Student, Mechanical Engineering

Hometown: Springfield, Mo.

Are you performing any research?

Yes, with Prof. Ramesh Agarwal. Aerodynamics research on active wingtip vortex cancellation in airplanes and in the Computational Fluid Dynamics Lab with Professor Agarwal; I do aerodynamics research on vortex formation patterns, usually with applications to small drone airplanes (UAVs).

Why did you pick WashU?

My favorite thing about WashU is the wide variety of academic interests at this school. I remember freshman year being so amazed by how many different things people did and all the hidden talents people seemed to have. Even among engineering students, the stereotype of the "single-minded STEM kid from Vulcan" was anything but true — students did everything from horseback riding to math competitions to spelling bees!

Being in an environment like that is really stimulating, and I think it offers a lot of opportunity for personal growth and exploration beyond your comfort zone. Being able to take classes from world-class instructors in nearly any topic of your choosing is such an incredible opportunity, and I think it's my favorite thing about a school as well-rounded as WashU.

What was your favorite course and why?

My favorite course was probably MEMS 5700: Aerodynamics. Growing up, I was always fascinated by airplanes and how they worked, so finally having a course to put equations to all those concepts was really cool!

Who is your favorite instructor and why?

So many to choose from - I can't narrow it down to one! Probably either Prof. Guy Genin (for Dynamics II), Prof. Martha Hastings (for Engineering Math A & B), or Prof. Emily Boyd (for Fluid Dynamics)!

Prof. Genin, because every class with him was so fun! He's such a goofy guy, and he always explained new ideas with really creative and funny examples. It sounds like a little thing, but that teaching style really kept the class interested in the topics and resulted in a great educational experience.

Prof. Hastings, because I've never met someone who can distill complex topics down to simple ideas so effortlessly. I think there's a simplicity and elegance underneath all mathematics, and sometimes it's easy to lose sight of that when you get too far into the weeds. Prof. Hastings always made sure we could relate back to the conceptual big picture. Because of that, we got a great conceptual understanding of the curriculum, way beyond just "plugging in numbers to a formula." Prof. Hastings is, hands down, the best teacher I've had in my entire educational career.

Prof. Boyd, because of all the extracurricular involvement she does for undergraduates. Prof. Boyd has been such an advocate for the mechanical engineering undergraduates, from faculty-advising the American Society of Mechanical Engineers student group to passing on student opinions at faculty meetings. She's also very involved with facilitating undergraduate research on campus through the WUSEF program. I think the best part is that the department doesn't require her to do any of these "extra" things; she does them because she wants to. I think that speaks volumes about the quality, friendliness, and accessibility of professors here at WashU.

What advice would you give to a new student?

For engineering students specifically: The number one, hands-down, best thing you can do for yourself is to join a student design team!!! (Three exclamation points is not enough!) I can't stress that enough — you absolutely owe it to yourself to get that kind of hands-on experience! At WashU, there are many options for that depending on your interests: We have an airplane competition team (shameless plug, as I help lead this), a racecar competition team, a solar decathlon team, and more. (I'm not 100 percent positive, but I believe we may have a chemical-car team, and at one point I know we had a rocketry team and a robotic mining competition team). Choose whatever team floats your boat and join!

Often times there's no experience required to join, and you'll learn an incredible amount of material. While classes are great, there are some kinds of knowledge (especially in engineering) that you can only learn by doing. The example I like to give is that there's no class that will teach you to leave room around a nut so that you can later grab it with a wrench to tighten, but once you make the mistake of boxing in a nut once, you'll never, ever make it again!

The best part is that you can learn these tips and tricks while having fun and creating something brand new with your friends!

Finally, it's a great way to make connections with your peers and upperclassmen, who will be an invaluable resource throughout your college career. Many upperclassmen will have taken the same course you have, so they can help you if you have questions about topics from lectures.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?

The City Museum!

Do you have any work history??

SpaceX, intern
MIT Lincoln Laboratory, intern
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, intern
Paul Mueller Co., intern
WashU Radiological Chemistry and Imaging Lab (RCIL), lab assistant

What campus activities or groups would you recommend to a new student?

Anything and everything! The most important thing is that you try as many new things as possible. College is a time to really discover who you are and what you like to do, and a school like WashU offers such a wide variety of student groups to explore!

What are your plans for the future?

One of the things I discovered about myself at WashU is a love for research! Because of that, I hope to pursue a PhD in aerospace engineering, focusing on either applied aerodynamics or aerospace controls.