Summer research experience gives insight into future career

For Angelica Smith, a senior studying bioengineering, embarking on research experience over the summer was a rewarding experience.

“I always knew that I liked biology — my dad is an engineer and my mother is a medical technologist,” Smith said.

Growing up in a medical environment, Smith likes to think of her profession as a mixture of her parents’ professions. She said her parents often joked with her that she had three choices for her future career: doctor, lawyer or engineer.

“I considered the options, and engineering happened to be the one that fit,” Smith said with a smile.

Over the summer, Smith was selected into the prestigious ASPIRE summer research program at the University of Pittsburgh’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories. Only 12 students from around the country are selected for the program.

“I was super excited to hear back from them,” she said. “Out of at least 200 people, they chose me as part of the 12. I was like, ‘Wow, this is exciting!’” She found out about the opportunity from Sara Hall, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research.

While in the program, which took place from May 21 to July 26, Smith studied the importance of skill retention and performance of wheelchair users in group wheelchair training, as well as user improvement. She analyzed data on participants who received training right away, compared with people who received the same training but postponed by six months.

She also tried out the study to see what it’s like to be a study participant. The program made Smith think more about accessibility in general life.

“This [was] a whole different ball game,” she said. “I didn’t know how much effort it took. Something as simple as getting over a curve is not simple in a wheelchair.”

Smith plans to attend graduate school after graduating from UIC in spring. She is interested in a dual graduate program at the University of Pittsburg Doctorate of Physical Therapy, and a Ph.D. in rehabilitation sciences or bioengineering.

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