A Day in My Life as a Biomedical Engineering Major and Pre-med in Kilachand!

By Emma Hartman (ENG’23)

5:40 AM: I wake up. OK, OK: don’t panic reading this — as hard as it is to believe, this is something I do to myself willingly and for reasons completely unrelated to academics. My favorite hot yoga class is at 6 am on Wednesdays at a yoga studio less than 5 minutes from my dorm. There are other yoga classes at normal times, but I really like this one.

6 AM: Hot Yoga! I started practicing yoga about a month ago to shake up my routine and quickly got addicted. I use it to manage my stress, stay in shape, and as something fun and COVID safe that I can do with friends.

7 AM: I take my time on the walk back to my dorm. I live in a safe area that’s incredibly pretty in the morning and I’m trying to enjoy it more. When I get back to my brownstone, I make some breakfast (I’m currently training in the art of microwave-based cooking) and shower before class.

Beacon Street in the morning, right by South Campus.
Beacon Street in the morning, right by South Campus.

9 AM: I arrive at the George Sherman Union (GSU), our student center, before my first class and meet up with my friend Sarah. Our Differential Equations lecture is remote learning only this semester, but we meet up to get Starbucks, catch up, and to take the class together in the library attached to the GSU. We claim that we keep each other accountable and focused, but we almost always wind up talking during the slow parts of class.

10 AM: Sarah and I leave the GSU and walk to our next classes together. I have my Cell Biology and Biotechnology lecture, where I run into Natalia, one of my friends from Kilachand. We met during our first semester of freshman year in a Kilachand seminar on Latin American music. I met a lot of engineers in that class since we all took it to fulfill the same HUB units. I still see a lot of them in my engineering classes or around campus!

Socially Distanced Biology Lecture in Agganis.
Socially distanced Biology lecture in Agganis.

12 PM: My lecture is over, and I want some lunch. Some days I’ll stay by Agganis Arena, where my lecture was, and eat with my friend Karolyn who lives in West Campus. Other days, I’ll head back eastward and eat with my friends Chloe and Sarah, who are studying at the GSU. No matter where I am, I always try and use meals as a time to see my friends.

1 PM: I head into the BU biomedical engineering research lab that I work in. We study mice to learn more about the neural circuits in the brain responsible for movement. Right now, I’m working with a PhD student on her latest project. Together we’ve been training our 3 mice—Matcha, Mocha, and Macchiato—to perform different behavioral tasks. Once they’re trained, we use electrophysiology probes and optogenetic techniques to record neural activity in different parts of their brains (basically: we stick a sensor into a genetically engineered mouse’s brain and choose what areas of the brain we want to record data from by using a laser to selectively silence groups of brain cells). I ask my grad student a truly annoying number of questions about the research, and she answers every last one because she’s genuinely happy to help me learn.

My lab mouse Matcha is in her tube and ready for training!
My lab mouse Matcha is in her tube and ready for training!

4 PM: It’s time to log onto Zoom for my HUB co-curricular, a course that I take in tandem with KHC HC 302. We teach Boston high schoolers about public health through a local program called Boston Area Health Education Center. It’s a great way to give back to the local community, learn more about public health and the Boston Public School system, and secure a coveted HUB unit.

6 PM: I log off of Zoom and knock on my roommate Iris’s door. We’re off to go find dinner so we can bring it back home, eat on the couch, and talk about our days. Sometimes we put on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy or the Bachelor while we eat

7 PM: I do some homework and answer some emails for my Girls Who Code club.

8 PM: I log onto Zoom office hours for my engineering mechanics class. I work on my homework and private message my friend Jenny, who’s also here because she’s struggling with problem #7 too.

9 PM: My roommate wanders back out to our couch and wants to figure out our weekend plans. We bring our laptops to the couch and work while we talk. Eventually, we either finish or abandon our work and just relax.

10:15 PM: I start getting ready for bed, write in my journal about the day, and look at my color-coded Google Calendar as I write in my planner about tomorrow. Tomorrow’s schedule is incredibly different, but no less exciting!

ENG & KHC: Balancing Academics, Extracurriculars, and Social Life

By Peyton Tierney (ENG’21) & Deema Abdel-Meguid (ENG’21)

DeemaPeyton
Peyton & Deema, March 2021: Four years later, still each other’s ENG and KHC partner in crime <3

Freshman Year (Don’t worry about the extra credits!)

Peyton: Freshman year on paper is daunting, and I’m not going to lie it wasn’t easy. Since both KHC and the engineering core curriculum are front-loaded, you will be taking 2-3 more credits than your peers who are either in just ENG or just KHC. The good news is the extra credits are primarily just for the first year, and once you get the hang of it you're in a better place to deal with the more fun and challenging work that follows in your next few years. Deema and I survived the freshman year workload while also joining clubs and making friends so we are here to tell you that you can do it too!

Deema: Freshman year certainly was not an easy one. I was maxed out on credits, signing up for a bunch of clubs and organizations and trying to maintain the clean pink and grey aesthetic I had chosen for my second floor KHC double. Finding a balance was challenging at first, but knowing I was not the only engineering student going through it helped tremendously. I quickly got into the swing of things. My peers and I encouraged and supported each other to keep pushing through. I distinctly remember Peyton, who was amazing at chemistry, teaching me about moles using a tree and leaves metaphor when we were freshmen. Who knows what would have happened in that class without her...

Eventually, freshman year was over, and it was on to the next. Being in ENG and Kilachand is more work than your major alone, but it is ABSOLUTELY doable and highly worth it. There is a lot of talk about the retention rate in Kilachand when you are an engineering student, but the reality is that if you are willing to put in the work and you value the balanced education Kilachand gives you, you will pull through and you will make some of the strongest academic connections imaginable when you do.

Peyton and Deema in New York, 2018
Peyton and Deema in New York, 2018

Advising (Plan ahead)

Peyton: I am graduating this year as a KHC, biomedical engineering student with a concentration in nanotechnology and completing the pre-med track while having studied abroad and worked in a lab for 3 years. It takes lots of advanced planning, good time management, and a lot of hard work and dedication, but you can accomplish whatever your goals are. And you don’t have to do it alone, you have a veritable fleet of advisors to help you navigate class registration, extracurriculars, and future planning. I have a KHC advisor, an ENG advisor, and a premed advisor to ensure that I am fulfilling all of the necessary requirements for my degree. All are extremely supportive of my goals and have also helped me plan what research/extracurricular I should strive for as well as helped refine my post-grad plans.

Deema: Throughout my time in the Honors College, I worked with my ENG advisors and my KHC advisors to flesh out my schedule and academic goals. At one point, I wanted to minor in Biology, and even with my Kilachand schedule and requirements, I was able to work with the department to make it possible. I ended up starting a minor in Mechanical Engineering and was able to take a few extra classes and opportunities to work towards it. My advisors were supportive every step of the way.

Peyton and Deema in Salem for Halloween, 2017 (Left), and having high tea at the Boston Public Libraries, 2017 (Right)
Peyton and Deema in Salem for Halloween, 2017 (Left), and having high tea at the Boston Public Libraries, 2017 (Right)

Finding Balance (Class, Life, Lab)

Peyton: While good time management is essential to managing the busy schedule of ENG KHC student, finding activities you enjoy and friends to hang out with is critical to your success and wellbeing. Growing up with a family who plays a lot of boardgames, I joined the BU Boardgame club my freshman year. Through this group, I met the majority of my friends outside of KHC and ENG and used our Thursday night meeting times as both incentives to finish all my weekly problem sets a day early and to ensure I always had a night off to have fun. Boardgames have been a part of my weekly routine for 4 years now, and I am the current president of the club. Making sure to give yourself a couple of nights off every week despite how busy you are is a great way to ensure you always have the energy you need for your busy schedule. Managing lab work and classes also gets easier starting your junior year as you are finished with the engineering core curriculum and have a greater say over your electives and class schedule. This makes scheduling blocks of time to participate in research a lot smoother. Also, there are a number of opportunities for paid summer/semester research work for engineering students so you can get paid for these hours.

Deema: Looking back on my four years at BU, it was really the people I met who helped me find balance. It was the friends I made in my Dance Theater Group who made the late rehearsals after a long day of academics worth it. It was my colleagues in my research labs who were also up late nights making incredible research happen who helped me push through my own late nights. It was the Brothers I met in my professional fraternity who became my family in Engineering and made me smile during the tougher weeks. It was the KHC friends that I got to bond with during classes that made every moment in Kilachand worth it. Finding balance for me was about finding the right support groups and people who kept me on my toes and reminded me of the activities that I enjoy the most. Balance was about finding moments between classes like walking or eating at the dining hall to catch up with friends.

Making time for the things you love and the people you care about (including yourself) is absolutely key for navigating whatever academic path you choose to pursue. Taking care of your physical and mental health, whatever that looks like for you, will re-energize you and enable you to better fulfill your obligations. The road was bumpy at times, but here I am getting ready to graduate!

Peyton and I have done almost every project possible together when given the choice. We are both BME, so we have been in most of the same classes both within KHC and in ENG. We always worked together well, but it was really the common experience we shared of both being in KHC and having similar ways of thinking that brought us success and honestly a lot of fun while we worked on a ton of deliverables together. Our story is not unique, and many people in ENG and KHC tend to pair up because they are the best equipped to support each other through the entire process.

Peyton: My best piece of advice is finding a group of friends to become your study group. Since we all tend to be busy, we often schedule longer than necessary group meetings or study sessions so that we can also use these work periods to hang out. These study sessions work even when we are not working on the same sets of assignments, it's just nice to have the blocked off to keep each other accountable and catch up on the week!

Compare and Contrast: Confessions of Siblings in KHC

By Kadie Cathcart (CAS’23)

For just barely being a freshman in high school in August of 2015, moving my sister into Kilachand Hall for her first semester of college was an eye-opening experience for me. As cliché as it may sound, BU felt like home to me from that day on. Reflecting back on that moment as I finish my second semester of sophomore year, I can’t help but think about how significantly KHC has continued to impact myself and my family. My sister Charlotte graduated in 2019—the same year I started at BU—from both KHC and the College of Engineering with a degree in mechanical engineering. Now a PhD candidate at Princeton University, I thought I would compare and contrast our experiences as two very different KHC students.

1. What was/is your experience like in KHC?

Charlotte: KHC was my break from a rigorous STEM schedule in mechanical engineering. In my major studies, every question had an answer, neatly binarizing my work into “right” or “wrong.” KHC classes gave me a chance to discuss bigger, more conceptual problems with my friends and peers, each with their own expertise or bias. We examined things critically and explored the moral or ethical shades of gray that exist in real world problems. While this might not be as satisfying as having a clearly defined solution to whatever problem was at hand, I found these conversations, and the community that fostered them, so fulfilling.

Kadie: For me, as a political science student, KHC offers a more intimate space outside of a lecture hall surrounded by hundreds of other students. Typically where my non-KHC courses fail in leaving much room for discussion or analysis, my KHC courses make up for. I thoroughly enjoy discussing our curriculum through my specific policy/political centered lens while simultaneously hearing analysis from my peers through their differing major and minor focuses. My KHC classes have been the place where I really develop my opinions on a number of academic and social topics which I can bring to my other classes. Unlike my sister, who experienced very little interdisciplinary overlap, the convergence of my non-KHC and KHC courses have both focused and broadened my thinking as a student.

2. How did you meet friends when starting at KHC?

C: Honestly, mostly from classes and luck! I also did the tried and true method of leaving my door open for the first week or so of freshman year which let me meet my hallmates, as well as talking to them after our floor meetings hosted by our RA. Truly, though, our discussions in KHC studio classes let me talk to and get to know my classmates, and then that branched off into hanging out at the dining hall or the 9th floor together! Then I met their roommates and their friends, then their roommate’s friends, and on and on until finally I’d met my entire class! I met my best friend and future roommate at KHC just by hearing my other friends mention that she had great notes for our chemistry class and so we headed to the 9th floor to see them. You never really know how or why you’ll meet your people, but KHC let me meet everyone in the program quickly so I could find them easier!

K: Similar to my sister, the spider-web of existing KHC student relationships is how I met a lot of my class. As daunting as it was to transition from knowing most people in my high school to knowing no one entering college, putting yourself out there is the best advice I can give on making friends. My roommates and I did a lot of knocking on other people’s doors in KHC just to say hi and introduce ourselves during the first few weeks. From these initial meetings it was much easier to recognize people in classes and get to know them better. My current roommate and I met while walking from KHC to Nickerson Field for Splash; both being political science students we decided to walk around the tables together and through conversation realized we had classes together! From that point on we started sitting next to each other in classes, walking back to KHC after, and hanging on the weekends in our dorm rooms. It truly only takes making one connection to get to know everyone in KHC!

3. Where did you prefer studying within KHC? Are you a 9th floor girl or common room girl?

C: Absolutely the 9th floor. I would spend entire evenings up there with a group of friends hanging out under the guise of working. I actually had to study in my room to get any actual work done because the 9th floor was really my favorite spot to socialize.

K: I am also team 9th floor. The 9th floor is great if you need a change of scenery while studying or doing work and also, of course, is a great place to socialize and get away from studying or doing work. It was also great for getting help from KHC classmates on assignments and topics.

4. What was your favorite KHC class you took? Who was it with?

C: It’d have to be a tie between my freshman year seminars — Spaces of Art with Professor Dana Clancy (a wonderful class on art and curation in contemporary museums, which meant our classrooms were the great museums of Boston! Weekly trips out to the ICA, MFA, ISG, and Harvard Art were an incredible way to get to know my classmates and the city) or Broken Bones, Buried Bodies: Forensic Anthropology and Human Rights with Dr. Jonathan Bethard (now working at USF). Each allowed open-format discussion between students, hands on exploration of the course’s materials, all with the insight and guidance from some of the most thoughtful and passionate teachers I’ve ever had.

K: I would also have to say my favorite course was the forensic anthropology class offered in my freshman year of study called Fractured Lives and Bodies: Forensic Anthropology, Disasters, and Human Rights with Professor Sean Tallman—an updated version of the exact course my sister took four years before. This class was quite a step outside my comfort zone and truly allowed me to get a new understanding of a topic I most likely would never have learned about if not for KHC.

5. Since graduating from KHC what have you taken with you from the program?

C: The ability to care and critically think about a variety of topics! The work we did examining ethics across disciplines - public health, history, ecology, engineering, literature - impacts and inspires the way that I navigate the world and academia. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to participate in such illuminating, sometimes infuriating, always exciting discussions over the course of my studies in KHC. From all of that work in presenting our own ideas as well as listening and absorbing those brought by other students or scholars, I feel as though I’m always ready, willing, and excited to talk with basically anyone about basically anything. In graduate school, your studies can become so hyper-individualized that it can be hard to break back into the big wide world of reality. I like to think that the work I did while in the KHC program helps keep me more well-rounded (academically and on the whole) than I would have been otherwise.

My sister, Charlotte, and I at my matriculation!
My sister, Charlotte, and I at my matriculation!