Turning Expectations Into Reality (Why USC)

Daniel Donchev Best of LA, Free Time, Viterbi Class, Viterbi Life, Viterbi Orgs, Viterbi Plus, Viterbi Summer, Why USC Leave a Comment

In the past, I’ve written a blog about the five factors that led me to attending USC. Check it out if you haven’t already! This time around I want to talk about the goals and expectations I set for myself prior to my first day as an undergrad and whether I was able to meet them during my four years here at SC’.

1. Involvement in Student Organizations

This was number one on my list early on in my undergrad career. As a spring admit, I was eager to find groups of people who were more determine and passionate than I was so that I could learn from them. Even more importantly, I desired to collaborate with these individuals to fulfill shared missions and visions that were much greater than simply personal gain. I attended the Involvement Fairs during the first few weeks of my spring semester and came across the orgs that I had researched, noted, and heard about through the Viterbi Voices Podcast. In particular, I sought out Spark SC, a team focused on spreading entrepreneurship at USC and beyond and ASBME, a team that served the undergraduate biomedical engineering community. Three years later, I still play an active role within each of these student groups and they have contributed to many of my accomplishments and personal development during that time.

2. Volunteering (Community Impact)

In high school, I had done my fair share of volunteering in my local community and I absolutely loved it! I made it a goal of mine to continue this passion in college.  I did this by joining ASBME’s community outreach initiative called Project-in-a-Box (which I wrote about here). Through this student-led initiative, I had the privilege of visiting local elementary schools bi-weeklyand teaching them basic engineering principles through interactive, hands-on projects. Our most popular lesson plan was a Prosthetic Hand workshop in which students built prototype prosthetic hands out of basic materials to meet the needs of disabled children. Seeing kids be excited about something that is entirely brand new to them is extremely rewarding.

3. Explore the BME Industry

Going into my freshman year at USC, I was not 100% sold on studying Biomedical Engineering. I was interested in the field, but I had no real idea of what a Biomedical Engineering degree could enable me to do after graduation. So I made it a mission to attend company info sessions, career fairs, Trojan Talks, and networking dinners so that I could gain an understanding of what the industry entailed. I knew that one way to truly experience this for myself was to secure a summer internship for a top BME company. Through grit and perseverance, I was able to do just that. I attended the Viterbi Career Fair and ASBME’s Fall Networking Night among other events to make myself an appealing candidate. I established connections with recent grads who were now fresh in the industry to hear about their experience. This past summer, I interned for Abbott Laboratories in Columbus, Ohio and I absolutely loved it. I worked for the Margin & Profitability team within the Nutrition division to help identify cost savings with regards to the packaging and ingredients we were using in our nutrition products. Check out the blog I wrote to find out more about my experience.

4. Studying Abroad

This was a goal of mine that I didn’t expect to fulfill. My preconception coming into college was that engineers wouldn’t have room in their course schedule to study abroad and graduate on time. After talking to some upperclassmen in my first year, I quickly realized just how wrong it is. Studying abroad is a very popular option amongst engineering students – both during the fall and spring semesters as well as over the summer. I decided to take advantage of the Viterbi Summer Overseas program during the summer after my sophomore year. I went abroad to Rome, Italy for six weeks with about 40 other engineering students. If you didn’t see it coming, yes I wrote a blog about this (actually two)! It was the summer of a lifetime and I was actually able to get ahead in my course work by taking two classes through this program, which opened up slots to pursue my minor the Viterbi Progressive Degree Program.

5. Hands-on Competitions

Something that I lacked after graduating high-school was hands-on experience that is typical for any up and coming engineering student. From the research I had done, I knew that USC and Viterbi provided amazing resources for students who were looking to develop and enhance their hard skills. One of the main ways to do this was through competitions. During my junior year, I participated in ASBME’s Makeathon, which is a 48 hour design competition in which teams work to create a device/solution that will address a medical challenge presented at the opening ceremony. We were tasked with ideating, prototyping, and constructing a 3-D Printed Prosthetic hand that would allow users to grab objects when flexing and extending their wrists as well as provide tactile feedback when they were holding an object. If you want to learn more about the structure and what I was able to get out of the experience, feel free to check out my blog on it!

6. Research

I thought research was something I would inevitably get directly involved in during my time at USC, considering that I had been partaken in research the summer after my senior in high school at the Long Beach Veterans Affairs Hospital. The opportunity was always there for me, but because I had already seriously invested myself in things I loved such as student organizations and on-campus mentorship roles, I simply didn’t have the time necessary to add on another serious commitment. That being said, I have still found ways to indirectly learn about and discuss the amazing research that is being conducted on campus. I organized the BIOMED Research Symposium for ASBME, where professors had an opportunity to come in and showcase their accomplishments. I’m also hosting a podcast series called “Office Hours”, where I’ve had the privilege to sit down with faculty and talk about topics that they are knowledgeable and passionate about. Here’s one of those episodes with Dr. Eun Ji Chung, where we talk about her research in nanoparticles and the future of personalized medicine.

All in all, I’m very grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had so far, and I’m excited to finish strong and apply the things I’ve learned and absorbed at USC in the real world.

Daniel is studying Biomedical Engineering. Click the image above to find out more about him!


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