January 2023 - BME Blaze: Kalsoum Mbacke

Jan 01 2023

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 graduate Kalsoum Mbacke as she told us about her experience at Columbia BME and her exciting plans to change the world.⁣ Read below to get to know Kalsoum!

Kalsoum Mbacke


  • B.S. Biomedical Engineering and Premedical Studies, Columbia University


Where are you from?

I was born and raised between Touba, Bambey and Goree Island, three relatively small cities in Senegal. I also spent time in Germany growing up before moving to the US, so I consider Germany as a second home while


What drew you to the field of Biomedical Engineering?

I applied to Columbia University as a premedical, Biology major because I was driven by the passion of being able to study the basic requirements for medical school. However, one month deep, I was overwhelmed by the eagerness to re-explore the joy and excitement I experienced through my early exposure to Engineering during my Extended Essay in the International Baccalaureate (IB). In fact, when I succeeded in using GFP & Fluorescence as a way of measuring pH fluctuations in different bacterial media and so early into my tenure, I just knew. It became clear that BME would be the right path for me in college so as to experience the next level of ubiquity, intricacy, and fascinating complexity of biomedical design and instrumentation. Biomedical Engineering being at the crossroads of problem-solving techniques across all disciplines has reinforced my value of a global perspective in data analysis regardless of the data source.


What is your current role?

I just hit my first month at McKinsey & Company, where I do work in Digital & Analytics while contributing to knowledge production in Health Equity. I aspire to fully specialize in Digital & Analytics within Life Sciences and/or the Social, Healthcare, and Public Entities while I study and apply for the next round of the medical school cycle.


Why did you choose Columbia BME?

The fascinating aspect of studying Biomedical Engineering at Columbia was not only the diverse and inclusive faculty, but also the unequaled opportunity to learn from the best while delving into the unmatched content of the Core Curriculum. It was a blast navigating Tissue Engineering after scrutinizingly studying the art of Beethoven and Vivaldi in Music Humanities. I read, studied, and provided non-western perspectives on a wide array of western masterpieces ranging from the Iliad and the Odyssey to the Bible and Paradise Lost after every Biomedical Design session. This type of experience is only available in a few places like Columbia University! Needless to say, the cherry on the cake, the location of Columbia BME gave me the opportunity to simultaneously immerse myself in the best that academia has to offer and be part of a big city full of culture and museums and that put the final touch on my perfect idea of university life.


What are some of your favorite projects/memories from the program so far?

One of my favorite moments was in the undergraduate laboratory when I was learning how to use Auto CAD for 3D modeling of our team’s prototypes for BME Design. It was a revealing moment. I felt like I fit, that I was doing something I am tremendously passionate about. I picked up the work every time the computer crashed, no questions asked. I loved every single aspect of 3D modeling! But I cannot go without mentioning the day a few friends and I laser-cut Dr. Kyle’s name for the Undergraduate Lab’s doorway and how he emotionally reacted to the surprise. Priceless moment!


What was your proudest moment at Columbia?

Being able to put together a working prototype for our Senior Design class despite having no prior experience in designing a medical device due to the global pandemic, despite the time constraints, and in spite of battling serious mental health issues, will remain by far my proudest moment at Columbia.


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

Columbia BME supported me toward achieving my goals every step of the way. I recall how desperate I was when I had my laptop stolen in Senegal, in the middle of a pandemic, at the heart of online classes, and in the midst of serious mental health issues. Almost everybody looked away except the BME department. The emotional, material, and esteem support I received from Prof. Lance Kam, Prof. Nerurkar, Prof. Helen Lu, Dr. Kyle & Helen Cen, just to name a few, has made me who I am today, and for that, I will forever be grateful.


Any words of wisdom or tips for prospective BME students?

Go for it. Columbia BME is a family. BME is difficult and intricate, but you will learn from the best, and not only that, you will be fully supported every step of the way.


What are you excited about?

I am excited about McKinsey & Company, and the amazing mentorship and sponsorship firm members are eager to offer. I am excited about studying for medical school, and I cannot wait to come back to New York City for that!


The fascinating aspect of studying Biomedical Engineering at Columbia was not only the diverse and inclusive faculty, but also the unequaled opportunity to learn from the best while delving into the unmatched content of the Core Curriculum.


Images (clockwise from top left)

1. SEAS Graduation

2. Pitching for Senior Design Competition

3. With Dr. Kyle & Michaela at Senior Design Competition

4. With Kiarra, Aala & Hannah from BME

5. Interning in Neurosurgery at Fann National University Hospital in Senegal 

6. The McDermott Group photoshoot (Biochemistry Lab at CU)

7. SEAS Dinner with the BME Department


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