Jasmine Hawkins has certainly kept herself busy. Majoring in bioengineering at the University of Washington, Jasmine hopes to channel her passion for solving healthcare problems to help the community at large and to, in her words, “invent the future of medicine.”

When she is not in the classroom, Jasmine is involving herself in as many extracurricular activities to gain the experience she needs to reach her goals. This includes finding mentors, performing lab work, and volunteering in healthcare settings. Find out more about Jasmine’s goals for herself, as well as the avenues she recommends for others who are interested.

What inspired you to pursue your major?

I really loved the idea of being able to engineer solutions to medical problems using science, math, and technology. I thought bioengineering was a perfect avenue to solve some of the most pressing healthcare problems of our time. I was amazed by the multitude of pathways I could take as a bioengineer in making an impact on medicine. The pathways span from gene therapy, to regenerative medicine, to instrumentation of medical devices; all of which sounded amazing to me! I knew that engineering applied in a healthcare setting would give me an incomparable opportunity to invent the future of medicine.

Tell us about your current coursework.

Bioengineering requires a breadth of knowledge across many sciences, so I’m currently finishing my prerequisite courses that include organic chemistry, physics, and biology. I’ll be starting my core bioengineering courses this spring, where I’ll be taking biochemical & molecular bioengineering, as well as biomedical signals and sensors.

What has been your favorite class and how does it pertain to your major?

My favorite class has been Biology 200 at the University of Washington. I loved this course because one of the focuses was on genetic diseases. We learned about current approaches to treating diseases like Severe Combined Immunodeficiency and Huntington’s disease. Bioengineers work on developing gene therapies to cure these diseases. I was fascinated learning about targeted genome editing techniques that bioengineers are developing.

What excites you most about your future profession?

I am most excited to both treat and help develop medical treatments for patients that struggle with lifelong diseases. I love reading stories of patients that are cured from new therapies. I’m particularly excited to visualize the direct impact biotechnologies have on people’s lives.

Tell us about your research work this summer.

In the bioengineering department two summers ago, I researched bacterial adhesion to human blood in the context of heart valves. When a bacterium known as Streptococcus gordonii binds to the inner lining of heart valves, they cause a life threatening disease known as bacterial endocarditis. My research involved mimicking pulsatile flow conditions in heart valves to observe trends in adhesion to platelets. By researching conditions that enhance adhesion in heart valves, my long-term goal was to help develop anti-adhesive therapies to help treat patients with bacterial endocarditis.

How did you land this opportunity?

I contacted the PI of the laboratory, Wendy Thomas, in the winter of my senior year of high school. I expressed interest in her work, and she responded by offering me a position in her lab to work on a project with a rising senior in the bioengineering department. I was able to participate in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program through the WA NASA Space Grant Consortium and present my research findings at the Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium.

What advice do you have for other students thinking about or seeking undergraduate research opportunities?

I would definitely recommend emailing the head of labs and indicating your interest in their research. This can seem like a no brainer for most people, but the head of a lab really wants to know that you have taken initiative to look up their publications and actually find interest in their research. Make sure to put together a solid list of labs that you find interest in, and be persistent with your communications. Look into finding funding for your research because there are so many opportunities to receive funding, especially if you’re planning on conducting research in the summer.

What extracurricular activities are you participating in that are helping you with your career goals?

I’m currently volunteering at Swedish Medical Center as a part of the Health Scholar Program. This program has had a tremendous impact on my career plans. Through this experience, I’ve had the opportunity to assist healthcare staff in multiple departments at Swedish with extending patient care and improving the overall patient experience. Outside of volunteering, I actively participate in my engineering sorority Phi Sigma Rho. I am also a member of the Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre-Med Honor Society, where I have gained extensive insight into medical professions.

How has receiving WSOS supported you on your path to a thriving career in your field?

WSOS gave me the amazing opportunity to meet with a physician who offered me a shadowing position. I’ve also found a mentor through WSOS who has given me extensive aid in my professional development. Through WSOS, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the first annual spinal navigation conference at the Seattle Science Foundation. I was able to learn spinal surgery techniques from the Chief of Spine Surgery at the University of Minnesota, and network with ortho and neurosurgeons from all over the world.

What is your favorite app?

My favorite app is LinkedIn Students because it gives you the opportunity to network with students and employers in the field you’re interested in. I’ve been able to search for different job opportunities and build my network!