Research In Action

Research In Action

Bethany Williams
Embracing Change
August 15, 2023

I come from a mid-sized town in southwest Louisiana and attended Louisiana Tech University, about 3 hours away from home. I knew plenty of people when I moved to college. When I received the opportunity to participate in the Injury Science Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program at CIRP, I was ecstatic—and then immediately terrified.

Accepting this opportunity would mean flying across the country alone to a place I had never been for an entire summer. I would also be researching the kinetics of pediatric occupants in vehicle crashes, something I never imagined I would be doing. I would be gaining exposure to a world completely foreign to me, earning invaluable skills for post-graduation life, including performing a literature review, learning what “submarining” means in the automotive industry, and coding in Python.

I was thankfully greeted by plenty of friendly faces, albeit of a different culture from my southern upbringing. My first week was overwhelming; confusing words were thrown at me every which way, and I simply had to figure it out. I quickly learned that these initially scary concepts and challenges were not insurmountable, and I was soon writing code in languages I had never touched before.

I then again reached beyond my comfort zone and began networking with other engineers at CHOP to better understand the possibilities within the field. With every conversation, I became more relaxed. As my work progressed, I started presenting in meetings, initially relying on my mentor, Jalaj Maheshwari, MSE. Over time, though, I got comfortable presenting confidently without him and won the Best Presentation Award at the CIRP Student Research Day at the end of the summer. With this honor, I earned the opportunity to present at the Ohio State University Injury Biomechanics Symposium in May.

Outside of the office, I loved exploring Philadelphia and enjoyed its cooler, less humid weather. I made friends across the city and found that I wasn’t missing home that much, and I was truly sad to leave Philadelphia last August.

As I look back on that summer, I can see just how much I grew. I learned that I am more than capable of learning difficult concepts on my own, that giving presentations isn’t all that scary, and that I can talk to strangers—when I want to. Now, I look forward to my future career in manufacturing engineering, a field quite different from my injury biomechanics research. My next stop is moving again across the country, this time to Florida for work, a prospect that would not have been possible without my time in the Injury Science REU program.

Click here to read about our other Injury Science REU alumni.