Ever since I was young, I have desired to comprehend the different ways in which our body resolved intricate engineering enigma. I also wanted to understand how these mechanisms cooperate at an elementary level. I am particularly interested in employing computer software and empirical methods to the very biological puzzle such as using computational methods in order to analyze problems pertaining to gene mutations, alternative splicing, protein engineering, and tissue engineering.
Growing in a quiet, remote and unexposed town in Gitega, Burundi, a country located amidst the East African Great Lakes, has perhaps contributed to the motivation behind my passionate desire in academia. There is a lack of biomedical engineering programs and the few engineering degrees offered were for so long believed to be “suited for”/ strictly reserved for men. I believe this is one of the reasons why I find the pursuit of a Ph.D. degree almost imperative, given my desire to quench my brain’s thirst for knowledge in this particular domain. As a matter of fact, I think this strategy has been brought to mind at every stage of my life, as I have always aimed at challenging myself to come upon solutions and overcome diverse barriers along the way. For example, I grew up in a period of civil war, where so many children were physically and mentally affected, and most of them became orphans. Many among them lost their legs, and arms, others became permanently paralyzed. My aims and plans are to design prostheses that will allow physically disabled individuals to gain confidence and become more independent. This plan can only come to fruition by working to make the country’s health care accessible to its disadvantaged and under-represented people through the development of science and research that will improve the socio-economic development of population, by coordinating research trough monitoring laboratories, publication of scientific literatures and educating the population.
Coming from a French speaking country, I graduated first of my class in High School at École Internationale de Gitega, and I spoke very little English. Yet, I was decidedly determined to work hard in order to catch up. My greatest motivators have always been my father, a specialist in Photogrammetry and Cartography at the Geographical Institute of Burundi in Gitega and my mother Rose Ngendanzi, a registered nurse and nursing instructor at the Paramedical School of Gitega. They unceasingly supported and encouraged my pursuit of Higher Education, for it is not always an easy path for a young woman to complete a degree in STEM.
At the end of my senior year in high school, my hard work both academically and athletically didn’t go unnoticed. I accepted Southern University and A&M College’s offer to attend with a full-time tennis scholarship. I attended this institution, not just because of the scholarship, but also because I wanted to gain profound understanding of biological techniques and their applications in medicine. I started to work towards my goals by being a Biology major at Southern University and A&M College, the curriculum integrated Cell and Molecular Biology, Genetics, Microbiology, Immunology, General Biology, Cell Biology, Biochemistry, General Chemistry I and II, Organic Chemistry I and II, Biostatistics, Pre-Calculus I and II and Laboratories. All in all, I believe that the background I have acquired in my undergraduate studies has empowered me to pursue graduate studies and succeed. It has also empowered me to achieve my goal to contribute to research.
In addition to the following curriculum, I chose to participate in various summer research at Louisiana State University (LSU) as well as at the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC). In 2015, under the supervision of my mentor, Dr. Bret Elderd at LSU, I was able to conduct laboratory research for the first time to determine the effects of an herbicide-resistant GMO crop on insect pest feeding and biocontrol efficacy and this was done by using four genotypes of soybeans: Gasoy, Bragg, Stonewall, and Asgrow, a round-up ready variety along with fall army worms that fed on the soybean. My objective was to conduct a series of experiments to evaluate the difference between GM herbicide resistant and non-GM soybean varieties and its effects on disease transmission in an insect host-pathogen system. I acquired a lot of knowledge and new technology skills that are vital in the Ecological world. This research became the subject of a poster presentation I gave at the Louisiana Biomedical Research Network (LBRN) conference hosted at Louisiana State University.
Furthermore, in the summer of 2016, I participated in the Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) program, and worked with Dr. Angela Brook, a professor in Biomolecular engineering and Bioinformatics at the University of California Santa Cruz. Working with her has been an incredible opportunity for me to get introduced to Computational Biology, and the different scientific approaches in cancer research such as studying the various somatic mutations that cause changes to the transcriptome, particularly through mRNA splicing. I believe that the biomedical engineering program would enable me to study and learn more about technological advancement in medicine and have a greater impact in the future.
Working independently at Southern University, I worked with bacterial cultures and made inoculation. I also performed DNA purification, DNA ligation, gel electrophoresis, DNA extraction, and Polymerase Chain Reaction. I did Plasmid extraction/preparation, such as Mini Preps, utilized for molecular cloning.
From the aforementioned research programs, I have accumulated a lot of experience with such biological techniques as PCR, gel electrophoresis, as well as some computational/ programming techniques such as ImageJ, Python, LARVA (Large Scale Analysis of Variants in Noncoding Annotations). In virtue of class, lab work and different research programs, I have become educated in some computer techniques that are mainly used in the biological and chemical field such as coding and noncoding regions of a gene.
I am writing to express again my profound interest in this program. After carefully reading the material, expectations and qualifications for the program, I firmly believe I am an excellent candidate and that it would prove extremely beneficial to both my educational experiences as well as my projected career path as a scientist. I have come to realize that my career interest in this program requires a lot of research, and determination, and that the more experience and training I receive, the better suited I will be to thrive in my future endeavors. The sciences behind biomedical engineering are constantly changing and evolving. I would consider it a great honor to be able to learn and study alongside my peers, as well as professionals, who are already working in my desired profession.
I have a wealth of skills and talents to offer with regard to this program. In addition to being fluent in multiple languages (French, Kirundi, and Kinyarwanda), I also have a great deal of experience in mentoring, tutoring, leading, and working with remarkable organizations, such as the Red Cross and the Big Buddy Program, the Center for Undergraduate Students Achievement at Southern University. I have learned valuable skills such as how to respond to breathing emergencies, how to treat burn injuries, as well as how to effectively communicate with a broad group of people. I am also the top graduate for Southern University\'s Fall 2016 Commencement. I am extremely eager to put my attributes to work, to acquire new skills and insight, as well as contribute to the University’s re-known research program. Given the chance to be a part of the biomedical engineering program, I will maximize this opportunity and make the best out of it. The Ph. D. degree I earn at University of Cincinnati will train me as a researcher; it will help me to educate specific groups of people, and it will allow me to bring about change and emotional relief to children and disabled individuals in my country. This can only happen if the committee accepts me to the program, and I pray and hope that it does.
...(download the rest of the essay above)