As many young students graduating from high school know, there isn’t a big blinking sign that appears after graduation pointing you toward the career of your dreams; that would be too easy! Maria Bengtson, a student entering Arizona State, went to an orientation for new students, and attended several informational sessions outlining different career paths.
Thinking of a future in the Medical field, she sat through a public health presentation, realizing it was not for her. The next session in this room highlighted Biomedical Engineering. Involving all of the elements of Science that she enjoyed, with a focus in Engineering, she thought it seemed like a good fit for her. Also, it could be a good catalyst for Medical School if that was still in her future.
After talking with Maria, it seems as though she had found her calling. At Arizona State, she worked in the Sensorimotor Research Group where human motor control was studied. Maria, being a violin player, incorporated this into her research, first volunteering on the project, and eventually taking over this project completely, and learning how much she enjoyed research.
Upon completion of her undergrad degree, Maria decided to pursue her PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Marquette University in Milwaukee. She has continued to research Motor Control, and added in the element of Rehabilitation. Her main focus right now is on basic science and how stroke affects the human body, particularly how muscle function and coordination change after stroke and how these changes affect people’s ability to move and perform tasks of daily living.
Another area of focus in her research is proprioception, which is the sense of the body’s position and what it is doing, both of which are important for planning and executing movement and can be impaired after stroke. We are given this sense by proprioceptors, which are found in some skeletal muscles and in joints.
With this incredible background, Maria is hoping to move on to a project that allows her to work with patients more immediately after a stroke has occurred, in hopes of understanding what can be done to improve the speed and quality of the recovery process.
In the future, she’s hoping to be able to take these scientific ideas and results from her years of research and see them implemented. It is clear that her passion for science is complimented with her desire to have a meaningful impact on the lives of other people. She is already doing this in various different ways while completing her degree.
Maria was a BioMed advisor for a FIRST Robotics team at Northwest Catholic School, based on Spinal Cord Recovery. She has also worked with the National Fluid Power Association at Marquette, where she helped organize a competition for students who were tasked with designing and building a specific project. They competed in teams to reproduce their own project, giving them a sense of independence and enhancing their problem solving skills. Other programs that Maria has been involved in include Women in STEM, Family Engineering, and Teenage Girls in Engineering.
As a woman in her field, Maria said that she has never noticed any particular barriers holding her back. She is surrounded by great classmates and colleagues, as well as some important mentors that have helped her succeed over the years. She particularly noted Steve Helms Tillery, Bob Scheidt, and Leigh Ann Mrotek who have been advisors to her over the years. She emphasized the importance of “surrounding yourself with good people” and having others to share and cultivate your ideas with. Maria’s excitement for the future of her work is very apparent, and we wish her the best in all that she pursues!
Have someone in mind? You can nominate the next recipient for the SOLIDWORKS Women in Engineering Program, honoring the outstanding achievements that women are accomplishing day to day in the engineering community by emailing Mkt.WIE@3ds.com