Why did you take Design and Visual Communications at Newton North High School?

I had always loved painting and drawing from a very young age. When I saw the description for the Design and Visual Communications class, I thought it would be a great way to expand my interest in art and apply it to a brand new medium.  I was hooked when I saw all the real world projects that the students at this course had done before- it seemed so exciting and impactful! 

Why did you choose to continue with the Design class?

Every single day I came into our Design class, I left with a changed view of the world.  I learned so much about visual arts and design, but also about project management, brainstorming skills, research skills, and working with a team.  Ms. Brooks created a community that was full of positive energy! Everyone was so creative, curious and kind and many of them are still some of my closest friends 5 years later.

What was your favorite part of the class?

I loved how open Ms. Brooks was to new ideas and directions in which to take the class.  She was always ready to adapt to the opportunities that came our way and because of that, we were able to take on projects that might not have initially fit into a more limited scope of what design could be.  In the rest of my classes in high school, we learned about subjects in isolation. In this class, we were able to incorporate marketing principles, research, and engineering into our visual art which gave me a much more comprehensive understanding of how projects work in the real world.   Ms. Brooks’ trust in us to handle new concepts and skill sets, has helped me to trust myself when I find myself in unfamiliar territory.

What is your most memorable experience from the class?

Oh no! It’s so difficult to just pick one. I have so many amazing memories from this class!  One of the most memorable experiences might have actually taken place after I had graduated from Newton North.  In my final year of school, 3 other previous members of the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam project and I trained new members of the Design program on the engineering and design skills that we had used previously for the pedestrian alert system after school.   We guided them in the creation of a 10 week curriculum to then teach these design and engineering skills to a group of middle schoolers through the Citizen Schools program, an after-school program for low income schools.  

After teaching the new Design members, we left for college.  Near the end of my freshman year of college, Ms. Brooks invited me back to visit the Orchard Gardens Middle School where I could see all the projects that the middle schoolers had made over the course of 10 weeks.  The projects the middle schoolers had created were incredible and they were all so excited about what they had done. I was so proud of all the middle schoolers, and I was so proud of all the Design students who had learned so much and then given back.   Seeing Ms. Brooks’ work from the outside was such a powerful moment because I could truly appreciate how amazing the program she created is – every year the program builds on the success of the year before and strives to improve the students and the community around them. 

How has design helped you in the path you are taking right now?

My amazing experiences on the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam project cemented my interest in engineering and helped lead me to my degree in biomedical engineering.  Almost every aspect of our design class has come in handy – I cannot tell you how many times in my college classes I thought to myself “Woah! That’s what Ms. Brooks taught us!”.  We focused a lot on the design process in the Design and Visual Communications class, and the approaches we learned for brainstorming, coming up with questions, thinking about our user’s journey and finding creative answers, all helped give me an edge in my project-based engineering courses because I had already practiced thinking this way for so long. Since college, I have been working as a researcher developing clinical assays.  At all stages of this process, I have used the design principles to figure out what needs I must fulfill for the patients, doctors and scientists using my final product in order for my project to be a success.  

The visual communication aspect of this course has also been extremely helpful in my work. The way that much of scientific research is relayed to the world is through publishing papers. Clearly communicating brand new discoveries to the public requires creating figures for the papers that take complicated concepts and present them in a straight-forward way.  Distilling big ideas into illustrations, is a skill we practiced all the time in Design when we designed logos, installations and engineering prototypes and it has helped me so much since then. Adobe Illustrator is widely used for creating these figures and for making presentations, so the practical knowledge we learned in Design has also been really helpful.

How has design helped you in other aspects of life?

Through the course I really began to understand how the principles of the design process are so central to a creative life.  If you think about your life as a prototype, you can use the design process to identify areas that could improve, research ways to address it, quickly try something new, and evaluate how well it is working to ultimately improve your life. At a more functional level, learning hard skills like Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and Arduino have been extremely helpful for my personal art projects, and have provided an outlet for my creativity.  

What school did you go to, and what did you major in?

I graduated from Boston University with a degree in Biomedical Engineering.

What are you doing now?

I am currently working as a genetic engineering researcher at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City.

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