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Marty Kilbane '21

Using Engineering to Help Others

Marty Kilbane dreams of teaching college and possibly running his own lab one day — a dream born out of his own experiences in the Engineering Wellness Through Biomechanics lab at UD.

The Experience Is Everything

Although Marty Kilbane ’21 grew up in Cleveland, his parents — both UD grads — established a tradition of taking the family to Dayton to attend Christmas on Campus, and the result is truly a gift.

Christmas on Campus is one of the largest annual university community service events in the U.S., and the tradition is a campus favorite that has become a nationwide celebration through Christmas off Campus events organized by UD’s Alumni Communities. When you listen to Kilbane talk about his Christmas on Campus experience at UD, it’s easy to understand the popularity of these service events.

During his time at the University of Dayton, Christmas on Campus was still a family event for Kilbane, who attended with his twin brother and classmate, Michael. But one year they were on a different schedule and ended up signing up on their own hours apart.

So, when they were headed to the bus line on Dec. 8, they were surprised to get in line for the same one. Even more so when they found out that they were paired with two boys from the same school — and the same class!

“When the kids hop off the bus, they are always really shy,” said Kilbane. And that was definitely the case with their buddies, Connor and Mason, from that year. “We always start in the RecPlex with the Nerf gun battle because it’s the hot place to go for the boys. We all had a great time, and they started smiling and laughing.”

They hit all of the major attractions as a group and Marty and Michael gave the boys presents inspired by their favorite Christmas toys growing up: Star Wars Legos.

Sharing toys during Christmas on Campus wasn’t Kilbane’s only experience with Christmas toys at UD. As a senior in the mechanical engineering program, Kilbane took an elective focusing on biomechanics that would change all of his future plans.

“I started working in the Engineering Wellness Through Biomechanics Lab with Dr. (Kimberly) Bigelow, and I just loved it,” said Kilbane. “I had always thought about grad school, and working in the lab really solidified my decision to go beyond my master’s and pursue a Ph.D.”

Now, after fielding offers from several graduate programs, Kilbane is headed to Notre Dame to earn his doctorate in engineering with a focus in biomechanics.

“As a senior I was evaluating my future goals, and I was teaching all the kinesiology sections in the Fitness Assessment Lab. I learned that teaching is something I enjoy, and I enjoy helping people. So, earning my Ph.D. will help me become a professor and maybe develop my own research lab.”

Participating in the lab wasn’t a given for Kilbane. One of his goals was to graduate as close to debt-free as possible, and he worked at an engineering co-op to help achieve that. But when you work hard, magical things happen at UD.

“I remember when I read the email telling me that I received the Russell Primrose Honors Scholarship. I was in my room and I just started jumping up and down. I called my parents right away, and it was huge because me and my brother had been taking out student loans each year. It’s not easy having two students at UD at the same time, and then my little brother came to UD, too. So, there were three of us!”

Thanks to the scholarship, Kilbane was able to achieve his goal while also experiencing more of what UD has to offer the community.

“Graduating debt-free simply would not have been possible without the donor-funded scholarship, and I just want to say thank you — a genuine thank you. I cannot thank donors enough for their generosity and for how much they’ve helped me further my education at UD.”

The Primrose scholarship also allowed Kilbane to forego working at his co-op and devote more time in the lab and volunteering. Part of his volunteer work involved creating outreach activities for K-12 students to come to UD and get involved with STEM. And Christmas was a special time for the lab, too.

“We worked with the United Rehabilitation Services of Greater Dayton to create adaptable toys,” said Kilbane. “What we’d do is buy toys off the shelf and make them adaptable for kids with disabilities because they need special toys that are just not commercially available or, if they are, they are very expensive. We took them apart, rewired and resoldered them. We simplified the controls.”

Their work makes for an excellent Christmas for children who might normally go without — spreading the goodwill and good fun Kilbane experienced during Christmas on Campus.

Each year was different, but the day with Conor and Mason will stay with Kilbane for life. He distinctly remembers walking the boys back to the bus with Michael.

“I will never forget it. After Michael and I said our goodbyes, Mason turned to Connor and asked if he wanted to be his friend,” said Kilbane. “Connor said he didn’t have any friends and accepted, giving Mason the biggest hug ever. Michael and I fought back tears. It was one of the purest moments I have ever witnessed, and I felt so blessed to have been able to bring two best friends together!”

And UD is blessed to have students like Marty Kilbane join our campus every year.

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Graduating debt free simply would not have been possible without the donor-funded scholarship.

Marty Kilbane, mechanical engineering