In late high school, Maggie Collier felt that science was magic to her, which led to her pursuing a future career in STEM.
“I saw that science had the power to cure diseases and improve people’s quality of life,” Collier said. “It was so powerful, and there was so much I had yet to learn about it. I also loved the idea that there would always be new things for me to learn about in STEM. The room for discovery is endless.”
Collier, a University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Engineering and Honors College senior in the Science and Technology Honors program, will graduate Saturday, April 27, with bachelor’s degrees in biomedical and electrical engineering. She has also been selected as a National Science Foundation fellow and a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate fellow.
The NSF funds research and education in most fields of science and engineering. It does this through grants, and cooperative agreements to more than 2,000 colleges, universities, K-12 school systems, businesses, informal science organizations and other research organizations throughout the United States. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowships Program recognizes and supports individuals early in their graduate training in STEM fields.
“I’m not sure what number of applications were received for NSF this year; but last year, they had a little over 12,000 applications and selected around 2,000,” Collier said. “This year, it looks like they selected 2,050.”
The NDSEG program is a highly competitive, portable fellowship that is awarded to United States citizens and nationals who intend to pursue a doctoral degree within one of the 15 supported disciplines. NDSEG confers high honors upon its recipients, and allows them to attend whichever United States institution they choose.
When Collier first arrived to UAB, she did not know the exact steps to take for a career in STEM or what postgraduation would look like, but says the Honors College helped her to get on the right track.
“Honors College put me around many ambitious students who knew what steps to take to prepare for a future in STEM,” Collier said. “Additionally, Honors College faculty were always available and happy to help me navigate my academic and research career.”
To help gain a better understanding of her career choice, Collier conducted research in the lab of Ho-Wook Jun, Ph.D., and served as the editor- in-chief of Inquiro, UAB’s undergraduate research journal.
“Honors College put me around many ambitious students who knew what steps to take to prepare for a future in STEM,” Collier said. “Additionally, Honors College faculty were always available and happy to help me navigate my academic and research career. In fact, most, if not at all, of the faculty I have encountered at UAB cared about my journey and helped me succeed in whatever direction I chose for my future. Honors College as a whole enabled me to achieve incredible things while I explored my interests in and outside of research.”
In the spring of 2017, Collier was selected as a Goldwater Scholarship recipient and was named “Most Outstanding Undergraduate Student” in the UAB Department of Biomedical Engineering. In the summer of 2017, she participated in the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at Georgia Tech. Last summer, she participated in another National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute.
Collier says she wants to feel satisfied with her work and her current and potential contributions to the world through research. She encourages all students pursuing a career in STEM to have confidence in their ability to achieve what they set out to accomplish.
“The key is to keep improving yourself and putting yourself out there,” Collier said. “Finally, don’t let imposter syndrome, which affects way too many people in STEM, be the reason you don’t put yourself out there for something you really want.”
After graduation, Collier is moving to Pittsburgh in May to work in the Human and Robot Partners Lab at Carnegie Mellon University over the summer. In the fall, she will start the Robotics Ph.D. program at CMU. She plans to continue working to develop quality-of-life technologies for people with disabilities.