This year, one of our own was named 2016 NCAA Woman of the Year. Margaret Guo accepted the honor which gives a nod to the academic achievements, athletics excellence, community service and leadership of graduating female college athletes from all three divisions. We admire Margaret not only for her persistence in the water, but for her passion for engineering.
Margaret has been swimming since she was eight years old. She swam about 20 hours/week in high school, and was on the varsity team for four years in college. Margaret graduated from MIT in June, 2016 with a BS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science with a double in Bioengineering. She is now pursuing an MD-PhD at Stanford University, contemplating a PhD in Biomedical Informatics or Bioengineering. She’s been a SWE member since 2012, explaining that her choice to join might have been a salute to her mother’s support and struggle through her childhood years.
“My mother managed the dual challenge of raising me while working as a full-time engineer,” she said.
We talked to Margaret to get to know more about what inspires her, how she’s always engineering and how it feels to be 2016 NCAA Woman of the Year!
What made you decide to pursue electrical engineering, computer science and biological engineering?
During my undergraduate years, I really loved the process of innovation–particularly in applications that are intended to have a positive impact on human health. I see medicine and engineering as having requisite, mutual dependencies on one another. During my industrial summer internships, at Medtronic and Intuitive Surgical, I have observed in situations where the clinical tools do not adequately address clinical need, it is often the case that physicians themselves had little input in the development process. Thus, as technology and healthcare become more integrated, there exists a rising need for a multi-disciplinary mindset to solve extant medical problems. The double major in EECS and bioengineering has provided me the technical foundations to pursue a future career in this area.
What do you plan to do after college? What kind of engineer do you see yourself as? Will you keep swimming?
I am currently pursuing an MD-PhD degree at Stanford. During my graduate studies, I would like to explore the interdisciplinary field between bioengineering and EECS with a focus on creating quantitative biological models for developing diagnostic and therapeutic devices. I hope to see myself in the future actively contributing towards advancing healthcare technology.
I will definitely keep swimming recreationally throughout my graduate school training and beyond.
How do you feel you are “always engineering,” in the classroom and outside?
Swimming is a sport that is inextricably tied to the science of body mechanics and physiological function. There are constant parallels between the training plans to reach swimming goals and the process flows for optimizing an engineered product. Just as I can apply the concepts in muscle mechanics and biochemical metabolism pathways to swim training, I find that I can apply what I’ve learned in the pool to my research. For example, through the years of training, I became fascinated in the correlation between cardiologic function and race performance, reading avidly about topics ranging from optimizing oxygen uptake to different heart conditions, such as cardiomyopathy. This knowledge of cardiovascular physiology helped inform my internship project at Medtronic, developing and optimizing a sensing and detection algorithm for their first leadless pacemaker. So, yes engineering isn’t just what I do but it’s part of how I view the world around me and tackle any challenges life throws at me.
How has SWE impacted your academic and personal life?
SWE has been an essential part of my personal maturation and learning. Through the last two and a half years, from my time as freshman representative to my current presidency, I have found joy in mentoring K-12 students as they explore the STEM fields and finding ways to lower the barriers of entry for girls to discover these fields. While we serve to guide these girls, they too inspired me to take a more proactive role in helping others overcome challenges that have kept them from their dreams. Thus, in pursuing my goal of becoming a physician scientist, I am dedicated to combining medicine and engineering technology to care for our global society.
How does it feel to be the 2016 NCAA Woman of the Year?
I’d say a mixture of happiness, gratitude and pensiveness. MIT is a super special place. And though there were a lot of sleepless nights and substantial obstacles, overall, it was a very nurturing, collaborative environment that I love and have thrived in. I’m super proud to have represented MIT for the last four years as a scholar-athlete, and grateful for all the support and mentorship that I’ve received over the past few years. It’s these people who have made my MIT experience so special and who continually push me to become a better version of myself.