Erica Pratt's doctoral work in Dr. Brian Kirby's lab focused on investigating circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in the peripheral blood system of patients with solid tumors and how these cells can be used as a noninvasive tumor surrogate, and as prognostic biomarkers for survival in advanced disease. Read more about Erica D. Pratt, Ph.D. 2015
Haley Antoine, B.S. '19
Where are they now? - update May 2020: Since graduating in December 2019, Haley has moved to the Ann Arbor, Michigan area to work as a Safety and Crashworthiness Engineer at Toyota Motor North America. Specifically, she is researching and developing exterior and interior vehicle parts to meet Global Technical Regulation (GTR-19) and New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) requirements that protect pedestrians from head and leg injuries upon collision with a vehicle. She has stayed actively involved with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) as a work group leader on the Society-Level Student Programs Committee. She is also pursuing a part-time Masters in Science in Mechanical Engineering from Johns Hopkins.
Why did you choose Cornell?
Originally from California, I wanted to broaden my horizons and experience new things at an East Coast School. When I visited Cornell during April of my senior year of high school after I had been accepted, I loved the campus and could see myself there. I was also impressed with all the female students I saw in Duffield Hall and got to talk to some members of the Society of Women Engineers at a luncheon, which really drew me in!
Why did you choose to major in BME at Cornell?
I chose to major in Biomedical Engineering at Cornell because I really liked math, biology, and robotics in high school. As I grew to learn more about the major during sophomore year, I came to realize that Biomedical Engineering was so much more than a combination of those things. I had always been interested in the health care field but what really drew me into BME was the opportunity to use engineering to advance human health. Whether it be an innovation within diagnosing, treating, regenerating, or preventing, I have the privilege to directly impact the lives of others by being a biomedical engineering major, and that’s what keeps me motivated in the day-to-day.
Brief description of your research topic/ Lab(s)/Adviser(s):
I am an undergraduate researcher in the van der Meulen Group in the BME Department under Professor Marjolein van der Meulen. Our lab is interested understanding what occurs in bones, cartilage, and tendons in osteoporosis. We investigate this through a mouse model that mimics the effects of postmenopausal osteoporosis that over 50% of women will have after menopause. The project I am currently working on involves understanding how to enhance the adaptation to mechanical loading with parathyroid hormone in osteoporosis.
What opportunities has the major given you so far?
BME has given me so many opportunities! Last semester, I completed a co-operative rotation at Toyota Motor North America in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the Safety and Crashworthiness department. I will return there this summer for a second rotation! I leveraged my knowledge of biomechanics at this internship and was able to work on the design of crash safety parts such as air bags, seat belts, seat design, and energy absorbing embedded padding. Additionally, I have also gotten involved in two other undergraduate research experiences at Vanderbilt University and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor because of the experiences that I have gained by being involved in research at Cornell. Additionally, I have been able to connect with some outstanding BME alums in industry and talk about their experiences. I have also been able to create an outstanding support network of peers, graduate student mentors, and faculty and staff mentors and advisors within the department who have helped guide my academic track and who I know I can rely on for anything and everything!
What was your favorite class or experience at Cornell BME and why?
Moving up in the BME curriculum, the courses start to get more and more hands-on and collaborative. One of my most challenging but favorite courses in the department was BME 3030 – Measurement and Instrumentation in Biomedical Engineering taught by Chris Schaffer. We completed numerous hands-on projects in this course where we had to hard-wire a device, such as a heart rate monitor, on a bread board, tests an experimental hypothesis, record data, process and analyze data, and then present on our discoveries. This class gave me a great appreciation for the engineering design process and I learned so many things about circuitry and data filtering.
What clubs/organizations do you participate in at Cornell?
The organizations I have been part of on campus have given me a rich experience during my undergraduate career. I am completing my yea- and-a-half term as the president of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) at Cornell and I have been involved with the organization since I was a freshman in various outreach leadership roles. Additionally, I am an engineering peer advisor and served as vice chair of recruitment and retention during the 2017-2018 school year. I am an engineering ambassador for the College of Engineering where I give tours and serve on panels for prospective and admitted students and families. Additionally, I am an undergraduate researcher in the van der Meulen Group. I am also the president of Cornell Celtic Club and am a competitive Irish Dancer. I am a resident advisor for freshman in Balch Hall. I have also enjoyed mentoring the Ithaca High School FRIST robotics competition team for the last three competition seasons.
Do you have any advice for other students considering research in biomedical engineering?
Research is an awesome thing to do as an undergraduate! It gives you tons of exposure to a very narrow topic that is not likely taught as in-depth in the class room which allows you to become almost like an expert in what you are working on. This is also great experience to talk about to a future employer and also invaluable for graduate and medical school applications!
While at Cornell/BME, what did you do for fun?
I love volunteering for STEM outreach events that the Society of Women Engineers and the Biomedical Engineering Society hold on and off campus. I also enjoy Irish dance and going Salsa dancing at Agava on Wednesday nights! When the weather is nice I will go for a run in the Botanical Gardens or go down to the Ithaca Farmer’s Market with my friends!
Favorite Cornell/BME memory?
One of my favorite BME memories was when I went to MedHacks (BME-base hackathon) at Johns Hopkins a few weeks after Junior year started. I drove down with three of my friends in the major and another group of students met us there. Two of my friends and I worked with two BME students from UConn and had a blast! It was so fun to meet other BME undergraduates and I even ran into one of them at a conference I attended later that year! We stayed up into the wee hours of the night working on our project and got to leverage all the things we had learned in BME the previous two years.
What’s the next step for you?
Haley graduated from Cornell December of 2019 and is now an engineering in the Safety and Crashworthiness Department at Toyota in Ann Arbor, MI.
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