BioE Student Spotlight: Kathleen Gifford


Kathleen Gifford

Where are you from/where is your hometown?

Hillsdale, NJ

What degree type are you pursuing?

BS Bioengineering

What is your specialization, OR, do you have any other majors/minors?

Biomechanics and Biomaterials

Are you involved in any bioengineering related organizations (both inside or outside of Lehigh)? If so, please specify.

Co-President of BMES

Why did you decide to come to Lehigh University?

I had known I had interest in majoring in engineering, so I applied to multiple schools that had good engineering programs. There were three main aspects of Lehigh’s academics that I really enjoyed; the specialized tracks under the bioengineering major, the emphasis Lehigh puts on undergraduate research and experiential learning, and the professors who really care about their students not just memorizing but actually understanding material. Outside of this, the school spirit at Lehigh and the work hard, play hard attitude fosters a really fun an engaging atmosphere on campus that I have grown to love.

Why did you decide to study bioengineering?

I wanted to go engineering because I have always had a passion for recognizing problems and identifying solutions, beginning in the Science Research Club in high school. Developing sophisticated research projects and competing in the New Jersey Regional Science Fair sparked my interest in bioengineering, as we were using modern lab techniques. However the core of my passion for bioengineering lies in my experience with my research team, Sickled. Sophomore year I joined a group of undergraduates through the Global Social Impact Fellowship in developing a low-cost, point-of-care diagnostic tool to be implemented into low-to-middle income countries. I traveled to Sierra Leone in the summer of 2022 to conduct a pilot test and prevalence study of our device, and during this experience I witnessed first hand the extreme healthcare disparities that exist in our world. My long term goal thus became to work with a team in the industry that is developing sustainable and affordable medical technologies and devices for those who do not have health care or who cannot afford life changing technologies and resources. Bioengineering will give me the tools and experience to do so.

What do you want to be/do after you graduate and how will this degree help you get there?

After graduation I would like to gain experience working in a professional setting with cross functional teams in order identify exactly which side of product development/bioengineering that I would enjoy most. After becoming more familiar with the industry, I would ultimately like to be working on product development of biomedical devices and technologies that are sustainable and life-changing. My bioengineering degree at Lehigh has given me both technical and social skills that will lend themselves very useful to these goals of mine.

Share a good experience/memory with a faculty/staff member/peers/or class within bioengineering

While there have been many great memories within bioengineering, I would have to say one of my favorites was hosting the Alumni Panel that BMES put together last semester. It was one of our most successful events, and it was great to see the hard work that our E-board had put into scheduling and planning it pay off. Furthermore, hearing that many students at Lehigh felt like it was a great help and that they were able to learn a lot from it was very rewarding. Additionally, events such as the annual BMES potluck where students can speak with professors and simply get to know the department  has always been very enjoyable.

Share a fun fact (or two, or three) about yourself!

I love music and playing piano and guitar. I am taking guitar lessons at the Zoellner Arts Center this semester! I love pickles. I also love Madrid, Spain, which is where I studied abroad my junior year.

What words of wisdom do you have for current or future students of bioengineering at Lehigh?

The best way to take advantage of your college experience is to recognize that it is just that- an experience! Put yourself out there- get involved, and don't be afraid to talk to upperclassman and ask them for advice about pretty much anything. Step outside your comfort zone, you really never know until you try.