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Dayton Engineer

Bridget working with a young student in the Empower Lab

Engineering Opportunity in Community.

Bridget Gerber’s first UD tour was “just one stop” of many on her search for a college. But that stop led her to pre-college programs on campus and, eventually, to hands-on experience, research and an internship, all before her sophomore year.

Gerber, a mechanical engineering major, became intrigued by the opportunities available to students early on in their studies and the supportive, community-oriented culture. She recalls a defining moment during an event for high school students, Explore Engineering, where she met a UD student who was showcasing research equipment from the Engineering Wellness through Biomechanics Lab along with Kim Bigelow, mechanical engineering professor and lab director.

“I was watching the student run it, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, how does he know this?!’” Gerber said. “At the end, Dr. Bigelow said I could connect with her about research opportunities for freshman year if I came to UD, and that stuck with me. It made me more excited about biomechanics and, because of this connection, I could get started right away.”

An overnight stay with Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) as a high schooler and joining the WISE Living and Learning Community her first year, in particular, helped her “feel like more than a number” and find a home within the UD community.

Once on campus, she spent her first semester acquainting herself with the lab, equipment, students and research. By the second semester, Gerber was working with Bigelow; Kurt Jackson, UD physical therapy professor; and other students in the lab to find processes, systems and software to study human movement and help increase the quality of data collected during research studies.

“I’ve always asked a lot of questions in class, but it really came out in the lab that I’m a curious person,” Gerber said. “When you’re in the lab, there isn’t always a clear step. Research includes coming up with questions on your own, which can be challenging. I learned more about how the process works; being okay with the unknown; and having a deeper curiosity to learn more, sit there and think, and absorb the information.”

There were other experiences to gain technical skills outside of the lab, too. Gerber participated in Go Baby Go!, an event for engineering students to modify electric toy cars for children with mobility issues. She also completed a mechanical engineering internship with healthcare technology company Medtronic this summer.

“In high school, I was strong in math and science, but I didn't have a lot of engineering experience or hands-on application before. Through WISE and meeting Dr. Bigelow, I saw the support and one-on-one connections that you don’t get at bigger schools,” Gerber said. “There is a mentality here that if you want to do it, the faculty and staff will meet you at whatever level you’re at and help you succeed.”

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