GAANN Fellow and PhD Candidate Andy Abbate, a PhD candidate in Biomedical Science with research interests in human factors, reflects on his fellowship experience. Andy describes how he overcame his fear of math and developed the skills to fulfill his career goals.
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PhD Candidate in Biomedical Science with research interests in Human Factors
Advisors: Drs. Amy Throckmorton and Ellen J. Bass
My name is Andy Abbate, and I am a PhD candidate in biomedical science at Drexel's School of Biomedical Engineering Science and Health Systems and I am a U.S. Department of Education iCARE for Healthcare GAANN Fellow. My research environment is one of the most diverse places, probably on Drexel's campus. Right next to me the the postdoc in my lab is working on air traffic control simulation, and I'm sitting next to him doing computational analyses of medical device usability. So in my work I leverage tools and techniques from computer science, biomedical engineering, and cognitive psychology to develop a new set of computational tools and techniques for helping everyday users of medical devices to use them correctly safely, and help them understand the interface.
I came to Drexel from Boston College where I earned a bachelor's in economics and I was passionate about just about everything except for engineering, and I was terrified of mathematics. But, when I came here I found myself in a classroom with Dr. Throckmorton, one of the most prolific mathematics instructors I think I'll ever meet, and she took my fear of math and turned it into a passion. And a few years later I'm teaching the courses and course material that I came here so scared of. Some of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I've had as a GAANN fellow are sitting down with two or three students and going through a problem step by step, and just watching that Aha! moment happen when they finally get something. And they knew it all along! They just didn't know it yet that they had the capabilities to solve these problems and it's really just wonderful to see that happen.
When I came to Drexel I was thrust into the research experience right away. The most exciting thing about being A GAANN fellow is getting everything at the same time. I'm learning how to navigate the research process like seeing journal article through to the end, but at the same time fielding emails from students asking for extra help on a topic, and being able to do everything at once with the guidance and mentorship of all of these experienced mentors and professors from different backgrounds. I don't know how I could do it any other way, just having all of them together.
I'd like to thank the US Department of Education and Drexel School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems for this invaluable opportunity and for helping me build the skills I need to be a full professor one day at a research institution, hopefully with an equivalent or with the great student body just like Drexel.