Spotlight: Elizabeth Carpenter

The Mexican poet Amado Nervo once wrote, “La vida es como un arca inmensa llena de posibilidades”; this succinct phrase roughly translates to “Life is like an immense ark just full of possibilities.” While many of us would simply write off Nervo’s words as just excessive hyperbole, this phrase so elegantly defines that which drives the academic and cultural pursuits of Biomedical Engineering student and President’s Scholarship awardee Elizabeth Carpenter.

Currently in her third year, Elizabeth – or “Beth” – is the co-head teaching assistant for BMED 1000. This introductory course is focused on introducing students to the opportunities available in the biomedical engineering field and what it means and what it takes to be a biomedical engineer. As an adjunct member of the Student Advisory Board for Biomedical Engineers (BMED SAB), Beth seeks to help gradually reform this course so that incoming freshmen can receive mentoring from fellow students, be introduced to working in groups, and talk to practicing engineers in the field. Beth hopes to help equip students with the curiosity to discover what BME is about and the right questions with which to pursue that curiosity.

With regards to her own motivations for being a biomedical engineer, Beth credited her love for problem solving and the ever-deepening nature of the field to be her driving motivation. She also replied with a segment taken from Dr. Ravi Bellamkonda’s, Wallace H. Coulter Chair and Professor, recent guest lecture for BMED 1000: “You think of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering; you’re building systems which you know how they work. Building a bridge, for example, I know every single part that goes into it. Not the case with BME. You’re working at a cellular level, working with stuff you don’t know – you’re working with a system that you didn’t create.” Beth currently holds two undergraduate research positions. One of those positions is under Dr. Philip Santangelo and involves RNA research for which she was recently awarded the President’s Undergraduate Research Award (PURA) and another is under Dr. Alisha Waller involving research on engineering education.

Outside of her involvement in the biomedical engineering scene, Beth loves the nuances of the Spanish language – so much so in fact that she is currently pursuing a secondary major in Applied Language and Intercultural Studies (ALIS) with a focus in Spanish in addition to her engineering degree. She participated in the Language for Business and Technology program (LBAT) for Spanish through which she spent six weeks in Peru and four weeks in Spain undergoing an intensive Spanish curriculum and an immersive cultural experience. From watching the Spanish soccer team parade the World Cup trophy through the streets of Madrid, to making the climb up to the rim of Lake Titicaca to watch the Peruvian sunrise, to interrupting the filming of “A Good Day to Die Hard” while on a weekend getaway to Budapest, Beth calls traveling abroad one of the highlights of her college career. She sees a foreign experience as something everybody should try, saying that “You become exposed to so many different things and thoughts and beliefs. Honestly, it just makes you more knowledgeable, more understanding, – it makes you a better person.” When asked what other culture she’d like to explore someday, Beth said that she’d like to travel to Dharmsala, India where the Dalai Lama resides. There, she would like to learn to speak Nepalese and immerse herself in the philosophies of the Buddhist and Hindu cultures.

In spite all of her academic pursuits and cultural sojourns, Beth remains in continuous gratitude to all those who have helped her along her journey and maintains an admirable humility. Yet, it is this mindset which Beth has adopted that has allowed her to be open to all of the possibilities of which her journey has to offer. if the poet Nervo were to have met her, he would have offered one word – “exactamente” – “exactly.”