National Alumni Society MemberName: Elliot Bourgeois
Degree(s) and Graduation Year(s):
B.S. Biomedical Engineering 2004, M.S. Biomedical Engineering 2006, Ph.D. Biomedical Engineering 2010
Hometown: Huntsville, AL
Current town: Wellesley, MA
Current employer and job: I’m a postdoc at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School.
What is your favorite UAB memory? I have so many great memories! I had a few really exciting “Eureka” moments in the lab, where a technique or an instrument I was using just wasn’t working, and it suddenly became clear what needed to be done to fix it. Traveling to scientific meetings to learn about cutting-edge research in my field was also very exciting. Outside of the lab, I enjoyed bowling with our BME team in the UAB intramural league, and playing intramural Ultimate Frisbee.
How has UAB impacted your life? I learned a broad range of engineering skills as a Biomedical Engineering student at UAB. As a graduate student, I had the opportunity to work with a team of very talented engineers to tackle complex biological questions. Through my dissertation research, I learned to be a better writer, and to manage my time effectively. One of the most important lessons I learned from working on my dissertation was how to break a complex/nebulous problem down into discrete, manageable tasks.
What made you choose your current profession? The overall goal of my research is to improve the lives of patients, by identifying mechanisms of epilepsy and developing new approaches to treat epilepsy. I get to learn new things every day, and it’s very exciting to be able to contribute new knowledge to the field.
What lessons has your professional life taught you? I’ve learned that people do their best work when they’re working on something they enjoy.
What would you do if you were given more time in each day? If I had more time, I would love to take more courses online (through EdX, Coursera, etc.). I’ve taken a couple courses so far, and they are a great way to learn something new.
What invention have you seen in your lifetime that you believe has been the most important? The CCD camera. To be fair, CCD was invented before my lifetime, but the technology has really taken off in consumer electronics over the last 20 years or so. I have used CCD cameras for physiological imaging studies throughout my professional career, and I also love photography as a hobby.
If you could have 3 wishes, what would they be? First, I’d end world poverty. Second, I’d end all disease. Third, I’d ask to be the best player in the NBA.
If you could go back to any age…which age and why? I’m really happy at the age I am now.
Which historical figure do you most identify with and why? Albert Michelson, because I really like building scientific instruments, and the instrument he helped build for the Michelson-Morley experiment was really cool. (For an anti-vibration table, they floated a giant stone slab in a pool of mercury.)
If you had the power to solve one, and only one, problem in the world…what would it be and why? I would end world poverty.
What natural gift would you most like to possess? I would like to be able to play guitar really well.
What trait(s) do you most value in your friends? I appreciate honesty and a good sense of humor.
Who would you want to portray you in a film about your life? Michael Cera.
What is your motto? Measure twice, cut once.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received? Being a good writer is not about making your work sound hard, it’s about making your work sound easy.
If you could start a charity or non-profit organization, what would it be and why? I would establish an organization to advocate for universal bicycle helmet use. Bicycle accidents can cause life-altering traumatic brain injuries for which there is no cure. Many head injuries could be prevented if people would just wear a helmet, but around half the riders I’ve seen (in Birmingham and in Boston) don’t wear them. Come on, wear a helmet, people!
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why? This fall I’m going to Acadia National Park in Maine, to go hiking while the leaves are turning. And I’m going to eat some lobster. I really enjoy hiking and good food.
What is something you are proud of and why? I got a postdoctoral grant recently, and I’m proud of that.
What is the last book you read? “Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain” by David Eagleman.
Student Alumni Society MemberName: Catherine Ritchey
Graduation Year: 2015
Major: Biomedical Engineering (BME)
Why did you choose to attend UAB? UAB has an excellent BME program – the only one in the state, as far as I know. And I wanted to stay in state (and in Birmingham) so I can be close to my family. I have young siblings, and I didn’t want “going off to college” to mean that I miss seeing them grow up. At UAB I can get a great education and stay close to the ones I love.
Who is the best professor that you have had at UAB so far and why? Dr. Cynthia Ryan, because she not only helped me develop my writing skills, as was the goal of her class, but she also challenged me to find new ways to develop my skills. She encouraged me to branch out and join the editorial board of Inquiro, UAB’s journal for undergraduate research to become an even better writer. Dr. Ryan was – and still is – always there to talk with me about my goals and future plans and is always willing to offer sound advice.
What is your favorite UAB memory? Playing volleyball at EVERY rest stop on the UAB Choir Tour last year!
What is your current state of mind? Stressed, but determined to knock this semester out of the park.
What do you do for fun? I sing in UAB’s Concert Choir, I love playing Frisbee with friends, and I enjoy roller-blading, even though I’m pretty terrible at it.
Who are your heroes in real life? My parents, who despite working multiple jobs to raise 10 children, still make serving others and sharing the Gospel a priority. And my aunt Amy, who is facing a difficult challenge with the grace, faith, and strength of a saint.
If you were given more time in each day, what would you do? SLEEP.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be? The power to refill anything. You know, my drink is empty, refill it. My gas tank is empty, refill it. Mybank account is empty, refill it!
What is the best invention of your lifetime and why? I guess I’ll go with the obvious and say Baby Bottle Pops. You have to love those things! But as far as technology is concerned, I suppose the iPhone. They can be programmed to do so much, both for entertainment and otherwise, and they offer the opportunity for regular people to make a profit, through designing their own apps and selling them!
What are your future goals? After I graduate I want to join UAB’s Master’s Program that combines Business and Engineering, then either start my own business, join the workforce, or get my PhD. In the meantime I also hope to get married and start raising a family!
What would be your ultimate dream job? Honestly, I would LOVE to be a stay at home Mom! That would allow me to always be available for school functions, to be on the PTA, and it would give me time to do more charity work. I would love the ability to volunteer at hospitals or shelters, or even do research or something without worrying about the pay – just to help people!
If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional. with whom would it be? I think it’d be cool to trade places with Amelia Earhart, in the week leading up to her disappearance. That way, I could trade back into my own body and know exactly where her plane went down (or know what actually happened to her), so I could be the one to uncover the mystery!
If you had a theme song, what would it be? Don’t Stop Me Now, by Queen.
If you had the power to solve one, and only one, problem in the world…what would it be and why? Cancer—it causes so much main and takes so many lives. A world without cancer would be a much better world indeed.
If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be? Songs and Science.