Biomedical Engineering Met Flamenco in Senior's SLU Experience
When she began her college education, Meredith Walker never dreamed that it would include kicking up her heels in Spain – or building prosthetic hands out of tape and straws.
The biomedical engineering major from Pittsburgh spent a semester in Madrid at Saint Louis University’s Spanish campus, exploring new courses while still advancing her engineering skills with the hands-on learning she loved at SLU's Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology in St. Louis.
“My SLU education and experiences have been very three-dimensional,” Walker said. “Everything is intertwined and interwoven to influence the next thing. So I thank SLU and all it has thrown at me: classes, friendships, extracurriculars, jobs, mentors, service, Chick-Fil-A sandwiches and God for shaping me into feeling confident going forward to the next step.”
A SLU 101 leader, Oriflamme leader, peer instructor with SLU’s University 101 course, Walker has also pursued her passion for advancing women in STEM fields with the University’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers and her commitment to her Catholic faith as a member of Sorores in Christo, the campus Catholic women’s faith group. Walker, who graduates in May, has also been a morale captain and miracle maker with SLU’s Dance Marathon, which raises funds for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and was recently named to the Spirit of the Billiken Class of 2019.
As a freshman, Walker said she had worried about being a woman in engineering classes dominated by men. However, as her SLU career continued, she found support at Parks from the college’s women faculty members and through the leadership of Dean Michelle Sabick, Ph.D.
After becoming active in SLU’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, she went on to attend the society’s national conference in Minneapolis in October 2018.
“It was such a remarkable experience to learn and connect with 15,000 women engineers in one location,” Walker recalled. “I think that conference truly sparked my passion and belief that fellow women are our best allies to continue to combat misrepresentations and biases, and to recognize that we’re just as brilliant as our male counterparts.”
Perfecting Life Skills in the Lab
The hands-on problems she solved with classmates in her SLU classes also showed her how taking ownership of an engineering enigma could lead to a fulfilling career and to helping solve real-life problems to make people’s lives better. Beginning in her freshman year, Walker was working in labs and perfecting the skills she will need as a professional.
“The lab allowed me to really understand what I was learning in class and to ask a million questions when I was completely lost on how to proceed,” she said. “This definitely made me become comfortable with not knowing and admitting that I needed help, which I think is sometimes hard for people to admit, especially in the work force.”
Currently, she and a team of fellow seniors are completing their department’s Senior Design course capstone project, a simulated stomach that will mimic the physiological environment of a living stomach. Their work will help Cardinal Health, Inc.’s research and development division study and improve feeding devices.
“Engineering is about solving the world’s problems to better improve the life of someone around you,” Walker said. “Everything I have done these past four years has been encouraging me and training me in how best to serve others once I become a professional. I remind myself the purpose behind my learning is how I will apply these assignments to real world examples, to be a problem solver and to improve the world in some capacity in the future.”
Discovering New Passions Abroad in Pursing a Degree
A key influence in Walker’s SLU education came as she stepped off a plane to spend a semester at SLU-Madrid in the spring of 2017.
“Madrid also empowered me to learn to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations,” Walker said. “Going to Spain was an awesome semester to meet other students I would not have met before. It was fascinating to see and hear Billikens across the globe still repping their SLU blue, performing service, attending tough classes and pursuing new learning experiences in cities across the continent.”
Her semester abroad still allowed her to advance in her chosen major, but also let her to add an international business minor because its course work reminded her of “the interconnectedness of our globe.”
She also found time to take to the dance floor in a flamenco class that she would not have taken “in a million years,” stateside.
“Now two years later, I am still recognizing small ways my abroad experience impacted my educational and personal development,” Walker said. “I am also comfortable knowing I am prepared mentally and emotionally to challenge myself and to dive into the next chapter of my career.”
“I think I’ve grown and changed for the better, specifically by being able to better recognize the support of great people around me and by seeing the path God has laid out for me,” she continued. “I know everything will work out eventually and I will become an even better version of myself in the years to come because of the impact of my SLU experiences.”
In the lead up to graduation, SLU is sharing some of the stories of its graduating seniors as they look back on their college experience and ahead toward their next steps.
Story by Amelia Flood, University Marketing and Communications.