Passaic County Community College logo, with red background
Department's top banner



Lora Fanda: Curiosity Is the Key to Her Success 


Posted August 27, 2018

Lora Fanda is modest about her impressive successes. “I didn’t have the highest GPA or any special intellectual gifts,” she says. “I was just very curious. I’m the type of person who tends to get into everything.”

Lora started her college and career success at PCCC where she was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and a tutor in the STEM department. She continued on to the elite Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland where she worked as a research assistant, received a leadership award, and even won funding for a personal project.

In 2017, Lora graduated from Case with a bachelor of science degree in biomedical engineering and a minor in electrical engineering.  Now employed at New York University’s prestigious Langone Medical Center as a data research associate, she is also a member of the Society of Women Engineers.

Last summer, Lora was one of only two undergraduates accepted to a technology workshop in Italy. She also speaks six languages and is considering graduate study in Europe.

What may sound like a charmed life, though, was packed with challenge. “Nothing was easy,” said Lora who came with her family to the U.S. 10 years ago from Macedonia. At age 14, she enrolled in Ridgewood High School, but spoke very little English. 

The teen gravitated to the sciences in high school where language was less of a barrier. She also played sports and joined the choir. “People should have a broad range of interests,” said Lora. These days she balances work with playing beach volleyball and with her passion for poetry.

Graduating from high school in 2012, Lora enrolled at PCCC where her father works in the Information Technology office. “It was a great decision,” she said.  “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but was able to figure that out at PCCC while saving a lot of money.”

Lora started PCCC as a chemistry major and spent much of her time in the STEM lab where she became curious about other options.
“I asked lots of questions about everything,” she said. Through conversations with Professor Dennis Reer, director of the STEM program at PCCC, Lora discovered that her interests leaned toward biotechnology and biomedicine.

She researched four-year colleges that offered strong biomedical engineering departments. “Case Western seemed so demanding it sounded scary,” Lora remarked, but she went for it anyway. “I cried every day,” said Lora, only half-joking. “Case was really hard.” Yet, she thrived at the university, making friends with other dedicated students and distinguishing herself in the classroom and the lab.

In 2014, as a part of a student group, Lora won a Student Leadership Award for Group Community Service, repairing discarded medical equipment for MedWish International, a non-profit organization that distributes repurposed equipment to developing countries.  The student group also founded two design teams to help address healthcare problems in Uganda.

A Think[box] Student Project Fund recipient, Lora designed and prototyped a device that uses hand gestures, specifically muscle movements, to make the conception of music more intuitive and spontaneous.

”I’m so glad I went to Case,” said Lora. “It’s a wonderful school and the professors are great.” In fact, it was a Case professor who recommended Lora to Langone, where her work involves measuring the brain activity of patients with epilepsy and working with collaborators such as Princeton University. “My job is to make sure the cleanest and most correct data is collected from patients for research purposes, as well as to analyze some of that experiment data” she explained.

Now focused on applying to graduate school, possibly in Europe, Lora was accepted last summer to a technology workshop about machine learning in medical imaging at the University of Catania in Italy.  One of only two undergraduates among an international group of about 400 graduate and post-graduate students, Lora said, “I felt overwhelmed, but it was an unforgettable experience.”

Considering graduate study in neuroscience, Lora dreams of one day creating “smart medical devices” that can capture images of moving organs, such as the heart and lungs.

Meantime, she maintains a close relationship with PCCC’s STEM department where she occasionally tutors and was recently a guest speaker at the STEM Summer Scholar Academy for high school students.
(Read about her presentation).

“The STEM department was the main reason why I enjoyed studying at PCCC,” said Lora who values the camaraderie she enjoyed there.  “STEM for me was a community where I could cultivate and share my curiosity and passion for all sorts of scientific fields,” she said. “It’s a nerd hub, and a really fun one, too.”


Written by Linda Telesco
Photo by David Hernandez