BME students attend seminar in Chile

Nov 08 2017

Following last year’s collaboration between Clark Hung, Helen Lu, and faculty at Pontifica Universidad Catolica de Chile, three of our Biomedical Engineering undergraduates were invited to attend the International Seminar for Engineering Leaders 2017 (ISEL ’17) in Santiago Chile, made possible by the generous support of the Columbia Global Center in Chile, Dean’s office of the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, as well as the Columbia University President’s Global Innovation Fund.

Tope Akinade: For the past two years, I have been conducting research in Professor Helen Lu’s Biomaterials and Interface Tissue Engineering lab. When I was nominated to participate in an engineering leadership seminar in Santiago, Chile, I was elated to attend. It would be my first time attending an international conference, as well as to my first time traveling to South America! The ISEL student council team did an amazing job at putting together the conference; from the leadership and networking activities to the great speakers they invited. The main components of the seminar were the presentations led by students on their involvements in innovation, research, entrepreneurship, and leadership.

I presented in the leadership category about my involvement as an undergraduate researcher, and also highlighted my role as the Vice President of Columbia’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. For the entire week, the presentations never ceased to amaze me - from my fellow peers at Columbia presenting on their research in tissue engineering, to the incredible work of other students who started their own companies or competed in international design competitions.

From my first moments at PUC, I recall being impressed by the sense of community between the engineering students and the warmth with which they welcomed us. Overall, it was an incredible opportunity to make lifelong connections with bright students from all around the world. Our days at the seminar provided us with the time to discuss emerging ideas within our respective fields, like the application of biomedical engineering to improving healthcare in low-resource settings. I especially enjoyed the chance to bond with other students during our evenings spending time at the hostel and exploring Santiago.

Sofia Barbosa: The trip to Santiago was an incredible opportunity for us to embrace a new culture and its traditions. For me, being a native Spanish speaker from Mexico, being in Santiago felt a little like home in the fact that I was able to recognize the Latin American warmth that I grew up with. Upon arriving in Chile, we were immediately greeted with Latin music on the radio and a typical Chilean barbeque. From the first day, not only did we start to look forward to interacting with all of the students participating in the conference, but also interacting with the city. Beyond the conference, we had the opportunity to explore the city on our own. We visited the historic center including La Moneda Palace and the Plaza de Armas. My favorite part of sightseeing was going up to Cerro San Cristóbal at sunset. We were able to experience an incredible bird’s eye view of the entire city and the mountains.

Lance Murphy: One of the biggest positives of this trip was the people I met. I absolutely loved meeting so many elite engineering students and faculty from around the world. Firstly, the student council that planned this event were all very nice and inviting. They wanted to ensure that we all had plenty of fun while still learning as much as we could from the conference. It was a perfect combination of education and fun. Additionally, we met Loretto, who has a research collaboration with our BME department. She encouraged us to consider going abroad to Chile to complete research. Lastly, the students from other schools were spectacular. It was so cool to meet people from Canada, Venezuela, France, and other schools in America. Everyone brought their own culture to the table and it was an amazing experience. In fact, some of the Canadian students have already invited us to attend a conference at their school. Overall, I think the people we met was one of the greatest parts of visiting Chile.

Left to right: Sofia Barbosa, Lance Murphy, Tope Akinade.

Stay up-to-date with the Columbia Engineering newsletter

* indicates required