August 2022 - BME Blaze: Bunmi Fariyike

Aug 01 2022

In this monthly spotlight, get to know the alumni, students, and scientists of Columbia's Department of Biomedical Engineering. Read what our BME folks are up to, from our labs' latest research, to our students' plans for the future, to our teams' innovations, start-ups and other career successes.

We loved catching up with Columbia BME alumnus (BS '20) Bunmi Fariyike, as he told us about his experience at Columbia BME and his exciting plans to change the world.⁣ Read below to get to know Bunmi!

 

Bunmi Fariyike

Education

  • B.S. Biomedical Engineering, Minor in Hispanic Studies, 2020, Columbia University
  • Entering MD Class of 2021, Stanford University School of Medicine

 

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA, but I am a proud Nigerian-American, and I have always considered Nigeria a second home.

 

What drew you to the field of Biomedical Engineering?

My interest in engineering began with my incredible AP Physics teacher in high school, Dr. Casey Jones. For the first time, I found myself engaged in math as a tool for first understanding and then improving the world around us. Coming from a Nigerian-American background, my interest in addressing healthcare disparities began at a young age as I grappled with just how different my access to healthcare was from that of my extended family back in Nigeria. In AP Physics, I literally discovered engineering as an academic discipline and, more importantly, as a means for specifically serving communities like mine that are often left on the periphery of innovation. To me, biomedical engineering seemed like the perfect foundation for the career I hope to spend thinking about how we design and redesign healthcare technology for the unique strengths and constraints of developing nations and underserved communities.

 

What is your current role?

I just finished my first year of medical school at Stanford. This summer, I have the honor and pleasure of spending two months in ColOmbia (yes, many people thought I meant I was coming back to ColUmbia) working in a neurotrauma center to understand how care is delivered in different parts of the world while simultaneously conducting research on neurotrauma devices with the goal of improving access to neurosurgical care in developing nations.

 

Why did you choose Columbia BME?

I was drawn to Columbia BME because I felt that Columbia was an environment where pursuing engineering would not be at the exclusion of my other interests. As a student, I was able to learn more about an art than I thought an engineer could ever learn. I got to take English classes and reawaken my love for writing poetry and short stories. I was able to improve my Spanish in the Dominican Republic conducting sexual health research and in Spain becoming the first BME premed to study abroad (many thanks to Sarah Jane for paving the way). I even became a certified bartender along the way!

Apart from all the opportunities that Columbia offered, being connected to New York City as a young person was a life-changing experience. Never in my life have I felt so independent yet so connected to the world around me. I miss the energy of the city every single day. There is nowhere else quite like it.

 

What were some of your favorite projects/memories from the program?

One of my favorite projects from the program was having to build our own EKG machine in BME Lab. If only I had known then that, in a few short years, someone would be expecting me to interpret what those little squiggles mean.

Taking a shot with Dr. Kyle at the 20th Anniversary celebration, however, is easily my favorite memory overall. It’s so easy for us to forget that our professors are real people too, and I am so happy to have shared that brief moment of freedom and fun with everyone in the program just before the pandemic began.

 

What was your proudest moment at Columbia?

My proudest moment was somehow pulling together our Senior Design project in time despite being in the midst of a global pandemic. There were many moments in which I was sure that we wouldn’t have anything to show for all the hours we spent in the Makerspace and the BME Lab, but we ended up with a final product and presentation that we were all very proud of.

 

How has your experience with Columbia BME contributed towards your goals? 

Columbia BME helped me feel like my vision for the world was not only feasible, but also timely and important. I got into engineering precisely because I wanted to engineer for humanity, and to have that mission underscoring everything at the University was incredibly important for developing my vision for changing the world. At Columbia, I not only became a strong engineer, but I was able to situate my education and work in the context of social justice and global health, an intersection that I hope to explore for the rest of my career and life.

 

What are your thoughts on the strength of Columbia BME's alumni network and how has that influenced your career path?

Even though I now live all the way across the country from Columbia, I still feel so held by our community. At Stanford Medicine, there are two other Columbia BME graduates who have taken their undergraduate education to go on to do amazing things at Stanford (shoutout Blynn and Samuel). Also, when Dr. Kyle was here visiting some professors at Stanford, he emailed me, and we were able to get dinner together. It was a wonderful surprise. The Columbia network is so vast and varied that it somehow finds you wherever you are. I remember once being on vacation in Venice, Italy during undergrad, and I ended up sharing a hostel room with a fellow Columbian!

 

Any words of wisdom or tips for prospective BME students?

Don’t let anyone scare you out of doing BME. It is difficult, and a lot is expected of you. But people who know that BME is for them can feel it, and they don’t regret their decision.

 

What are you excited about?

I am excited about my summer here in Colombia, where I hope to continue to improve on my Spanish fluency while learning from some of the world’s leading experts in how to deliver large impact with a small number of resources.  

 

 

  

Columbia BME helped me feel like my vision for the world was not only feasible, but also timely and important. I got into engineering precisely because I wanted to engineer for humanity, and to have that mission underscoring everything at the University was incredibly important for developing my vision for changing the world.

Bunmi Fariyike
BS '20; First Year MD student at Stanford University School of Medicine

Images (clockwise from top left):

1. Every year, Stanford Medicine hosts Moonlighting, which is affectionately known as “med school prom”. This is the Happy Hour before heading downtown for the main event.

2. All of Stanford’s Entering MD and PA Classes of 2021 celebrating getting our white coats and stethoscopes.

3. New friends in Colombia!

4. We took advantage of our proximity to Lake Tahoe to go skiing this winter. It was my first and very humbling, to say the least.

5. Stanford’s Flu and COVID Crew also does many off-campus events, providing flu and COVID vaccines in areas where vaccine access is low. After spending the day vaccinating farmworkers in the Central Valley, we stopped at Yosemite National Park on the way home.

6. Some of my closest friends and I met up on campus almost a year after virtual graduation to take the graduation photos that we deserved!

7. This year, I had the honor of serving as one of Stanford Flu and COVID Crew’s Internal Directors. Together, Bel, Mel, and I organized numerous on-campus events in which first-year medical students like us vaccinated over 5,000 members of the Stanford community against the flu!

8. My younger sister came out to San Francisco to celebrate her graduation from the University of Chicago. We met up in the city and spent the day together.

 

COLUMBIA BME ACADEMICS