We caught up with a few of our graduating seniors to find out what their experience was like and to learn about where they’re headed next.

Megan Dearden

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I was a competitive swimmer for fourteen years, and the summer after my freshman year of college, I ran my first marathon. My current dream is to complete an Ironman Triathlon (2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles biking and 26.2 miles running). I’m currently planning on doing a Half-Ironman at the end of this coming summer and a full one at the beginning of next summer. I also enjoy climbing, dancing, skiing, snowboarding, doing yoga, hiking and walking my dog, Cosmo.

Outside of athletics, I love cooking and baking. I’m pretty much always happy to spend time with my friends and family playing card games or board games or video games. I’m an avid reader and writer (both prose and poetry). The summer after my sophomore year, I spent three months refining my Spanish language skills in Costa Rica. Someday, I hope to spend more time traveling, exploring the world and learning more languages. Finally, I’ve been working on enhancing my artistic and musical abilities: painting, drawing, singing, playing guitar and writing songs.

Where are you headed after graduation?

I’ll be working in my current research lab over the summer. Then, in the fall, I’ll be starting a Computer Science Master’s degree, while working as a Graduate Research Assistant in the same lab.

What was your favorite part of your undergraduate career?

I feel incredibly lucky to have had such a great experience with my research lab. The environment is very supportive and collaborative. Every time I go to work, I know that I have a whole team of people behind me, which has been invaluable in helping me get through hurdles. From my experience, research is about learning how to gracefully handle a series of setbacks without giving up or getting discouraged. I believe that my ability to stay positive in the hard times comes largely from the people I have to help me. I have been so spoiled to have basically had two PIs looking out for me and supporting me. I could not be more grateful for the kindness, patience, understanding, knowledge and attention they have given to me. I have learned so much about how to be a researcher, a coworker and a leader.

Why BME?

Growing up, I really enjoyed puzzles and riddles, and I thought of engineering as basically puzzles with people figuring out unique ways to solve complex problems. Specifically, I liked biomedical engineering, because it was a way for me to get diverse exposure. I have learned from several different fields, like electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and computer science. Additionally, I volunteered at two hospitals for approximately 300 hours in high school, and I loved it. Biomedical engineering let me mix my interest in engineering with my passion for healthcare.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in their college career?

Firstly, I believe that in college, like in much of life, relationships can make or break the experience. I wish I knew as a freshman that professors are not scary. They are just people, and you don’t have to be a perfect student to be worth their time. Be brave enough to ask questions during class. Go to office hours to clarify concepts you don’t understand. Professors can be very nice and extremely helpful, if you care about the class content and put in the effort to get to know them. As useful as professors can be, they can’t work through every challenging problem with you. This is where it is crucial to make friends in your classes. College is tough mentally and emotionally. My friends have been indispensable in helping me learn hard content and be strong through the hard weeks.

Secondly, I have learned that it is extraordinarily important to advocate for myself. Sometimes the best opportunities are the ones that you make for yourself. My plan for next year is to work in essentially a Biomedical Engineering lab on a Computer Science Master’s Thesis. It’s a great fit for me, but it isn’t something I would have been able to do if I hadn’t asked for it. Similarly, I have a friend who was able to take two graduate level classes without the prerequisites, because he was willing to ask for it and put in the effort to learn the prior content on his own. Not every idea will pan out, but they definitely won’t if you don’t try.

Finally, in many ways, my college experience did not go the way I had expected it to, and I did not end up where I thought I would, but I am very happy with how everything turned out. Most of my biggest regrets are either what I didn’t do or decisions I made and spent too long not following. You are the only one that really knows how you feel and what you want. I believe that it’s important to trust and follow those feelings. I really wish that I had understood earlier that it is okay to let go of experiences and people that aren’t good for you or taking you where you want to go. Even though letting go can be extremely hard, it frees up time for what you really want.

As I continue onto the next phase of my life, I strive to surround myself with positive influences, work for my goals and accept the unexpected changes that come along the way. I just want to enjoy the journey, and I hope that anyone reading this is able to find ways to enjoy their journeys, as well.