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Former STEM Student Inspires
Summer Scholars to Succeed

Lora Fanda, a former STEM student at PCCC, was a guest speaker at the 2018 STEM Summer Scholars Academy. Lora explains the benefits of starting at PCCC. She graduated last year from Case Western Reserve University, Lora takes questions from her engaged audience of high school STEM students who plan to attend PCCC.
 

 
Posted August 27, 2018

 

 
Nearly 100 high school students from PCCC’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Summer Scholars Academy turned out recently for a special presentation by Lora Fanda, a former PCCC student and success story. 

Lora majored in science at PCCC and spent many hours in the PCCC STEM lab  as a student and tutor. She graduated last year from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland with a bachelor of science degree in Biomedical Engineering and a minor in Electrical Engineering.  She now works as a research data associate at New York University’s prestigious Langone Medical Center. Read more about Lora.

Down-to-earth and genial, the 24-year-old engaged her young audience with personal anecdotes about her education and career journey, illustrating the effective strategy that led her to a top transfer college and good job.

“Keep an open mind before committing to what you think you want to do,” she said. “You’ll find out what you like or don’t like.”
Professor Dennis Reer, the director of STEM at PCCC, interjected with the comment, “Lora was interested in everything when she was here.”

She started PCCC as a chemistry major with the goal of going to medical school. “Then I wondered what I could do in medicine that didn’t involve poking people or looking at blood,” Lora said.

That drew laughs, but illustrated her point that being honest with yourself can give you courage to change your direction toward a more fulfilling career choice.  “Technology was the answer for me,” said Lora, who now enjoys a “bloodless” medical career measuring brain activity of epilepsy patients.

Lora’s enthusiasm for her chosen career was clear. “Here’s my favorite technology,” she declared about EMG (electromyography), a diagnostic technique for measuring electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles. “EMG is used in technologies that can bypass the brain and make the muscles work,” said Lora, describing how EMG activates muscles in patients whose brains cannot send appropriate signals to do so.

Students were fascinated by the amusing “make music muscle machine,” Lora created, using EMG.  “I wore the machine on my leg for Halloween,” said Lora, inspiring more laughter.  “When I walked and the muscle contracted, it lit up and played sounds.”

Lora told of her background as an immigrant to the U.S. who spoke no English, the stress and satisfaction of attending Case Western, a highly demanding college, and her recent experience as one of only two undergraduates accepted to a technical workshop in Italy.

 “Eye-opening” is how she described a student organization she participated in for MedWish, an initiative that repurposes donated hospital equipment for use in war-torn areas around the world.

During the Q&A, one student asked, “What was the most important course you took?” Without hesitation Lora replied, “Signal processing,” explaining the biomedical research technique to “make small brain signals bigger and cleaner.”

Regarding future goals, Lora said she plans to attend graduate school, possibly in Europe, and “will probably continue to focus on neuroscience and understanding the brain through signal processing.” She also envisions one day creating a “smart MRI that can better capture images of moving organs, such as the heart and lungs.”

Lora shared some tips with the young audience that included: Watch TED talks, study at the STEM lab, and ask plenty of questions.  She also emphasized the value of community college to the high schoolers.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I started at PCCC,” Lora said. “I saved a ton of money by coming here first and discovering what I really wanted to do. I also met a lot of really cool people.”

Lora recalled her time as a PCCC student, spending hours in the STEM lab, studying and socializing with other students who shared a passion for science. “I asked lots of questions. You should, too,” she told the students, adding  “Take advantage of what you have here at PCCC. They want you to succeed.”