Mauri Richards at Colorado State University

Hello! My name is Mauri Richards and I am a sophomore from Lakewood, CO. I am currently studying Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering — a dual degree in five years– here at Colorado State University.

Why did you choose to study Biomedical & Mechanical Engineering at CSU?

Honestly, biomedical and mechanical engineering fell into my lap right before I came to school! I had no clue what I wanted to study in college until the summer before I started at CSU. I was considering engineering because I wanted to be challenged in my studies and in my job for the future to come. I used to be a nanny for some family friends that own their own prosthetics company. I was fortunate enough to shadow them for a day and to see what amazing work that they did and I fell in love with prosthetics and wanted a degree that would allow me to help people. After doing some research to see what I could major in that would prepare me to work with prosthetics, a friend mentioned CSU’s dual-degree Biomedical Engineering program to me. This sparked my interest and I figured as far as degrees go, this would be a great place to start! I called CSU and declared my major the day before my orientation session over the summer.

Since starting at CSU, how have you become involved with the campus?

I have tried to be involved in as many clubs and groups around campus as I can, however, there are so many opportunities and I only have so much time! I am currently an officer for the Engineering College Council (ECC) here at CSU. ECC plans Engineering Days (a week in April where senior design projects are showcased along with other fun events for engineering students), distributes money among the other organizations in the college, and ensures that the college is updated on all of the events that are occurring in the various engineering programs and organizations. I work as the Leaders In Freshman Engineering (LIFE) director. LIFE is the main reason I got involved in ECC; it is centered on helping first year students get acquainted with all of the resources that they have on campus and doing fun things together. I am also involved in the University Facility Fee Advisory Board (UFFAB) which decides what construction proposals are funded by students’ university facility fees. Networking through friends and taking opportunities at the beginning of the year have really led me to where I am with all of my clubs!

I’m not always a nerd though! I have found that one of the best ways to be involved on campus is to just be here and talking with others. My friends and I dance the night away each week at swing dancing club. When the weather is nice I love to hang up my hammock by the lagoon with others that I have run into there doing the same thing! Attending workout classes at the Rec and climbing help keep me rounded outside of engineering courses and I usually end up meeting someone new every time I am there. 

What was your experience in engineering research and how do you approach getting involved with on-campus research programs?

In my first semester of my freshman year, I was lucky enough to volunteer at the Orthopedic Bone Research Lab here at CSU. I would have never expected that a research lab would have even considered bringing a first year student on to the team, but they did! Each week I was able to choose when I went into the lab and how much time I stayed to work. The lab was very easy to go to between classes because it was a short bike ride away from campus. I was able to learn about various new lab procedures and how to operate machinery that I still haven’t learned about in my classes (but will soon).  I was even able to scrub into and assist with surgery on a sheep! Although this was such a great learning experience, I learned that research is not for me. While I worked there, I longed for more human interaction: I guess I like talking too much! I would definitely recommend trying to get involved in a research lab at CSU! It helped me learn a lot about the type of work I want to be doing in the future and was a great resume builder.

My Introduction to Biomedical Engineering professor held an information session about how to get involved in research labs on campus during the first few weeks of school. If you would like to get involved, look out for those information sessions, or you can do what I did. First, I looked up all of the professors in mechanical and biomedical engineering at CSU and looked through the type of research that they were completing. This was a lengthy process but was definitely worth the time. I narrowed down the list of professors that I was interested in to about eight to ten people and furthered my research by reading some of their published papers on PubMed. This research allowed me to narrow my interest list to five different professors. I emailed each of those five professors explaining why I was interested in their lab and to see if they needed any more volunteers for the semester. If they do not get back to you, go to the others that you eliminated off the list and keep trying. Or email them again–they are busy people and appreciate students that take initiative. Good luck!

What would you recommend as on-campus housing options for incoming engineering students?

As an engineering student, I would definitely recommend living in an engineering residence hall or an engineering Residential Learning Community (RLC) freshman year. I lived in Corbett Hall my freshman year and my floor wasn’t very close-knit; it was a great home, but not a great place for me personally to meet people. The first time I went into the engineering residence hall in Academic Village (AV), it was like a whole new world! Almost everyone knew each other and I recognized a large amount of them because I had been seeing them in my classes. AV made CSU seem so much smaller; my classes went from a sea of strangers to people I saw in the residence hall all the time. Having a sense of community wherever you end up is almost essential! Being able to pop my head out of the study room and have several people there to help with homework or studying was always amazing. AV ultimately became my home and Corbett was just the place where I slept.

I would also recommend finding a separation between home and school in the dorms. For me, it was hard to relax and get out of the school mode because I was always on campus. I had to nail down times that I would only allow myself to relax in my room rather than continually doing homework–sometimes you just need a brain break! If you can’t find a separation, don’t be afraid to get off campus. I recommend City Park–I hammock there all the time to relax!

What are some of you favorite things to do in Fort Collins?

I don’t know where to even begin with this question! My friends and I have done so many fun things thus far. I love Fort Collins because not only is it a college town, but it’s also a family town. One of my favorite things to do is shop around in old town and people watch in the old town square. There is a great balance between family and fun in this town. Pinball Jones is a unique place with a very homey vibe to play arcade games and of course, pinball. Even though all of these are great activities, my absolute favorite thing to do in Fort Collins is go outside. I love going on walks, running, and hiking. I have walked from my apartment to many of the parks that are around town. I have hiked Horsetooth day and night and made my own trail a few times through Poudre Canyon! The Mishawaka is a very intimate concert venue up the Poudre Canyon, Horsetooth reservoir is nice for a swim, and Rocky Mountain National Park is only about an hour and a half away! I never get bored in Fort Collins– a town with a small and homey feel, yet a fast paced community. 

Looking forward in your curriculum and from what you have seen thus far, what are you the most excited about for your future in engineering?

I am excited for my MECH 200 class that I am currently enrolled in. This is a very challenging and hands on machining course that will allow me to see a side of mechanical engineering that I have not experienced before. We get to work hands-on with large machines and learn the value of accuracy and safety in machining environments. I am also looking forward to my BIOM 300 experimentation lab my junior year. I have heard great things about this class; for example, students are given a problem related to biomedical engineering and are not told to figure it out. Rather than going through lecture upon lecture of learning how to solve a problem, I get to attack it head on with my peers in our lab sessions and use problem solving techniques that I will learn about in class. Another class that I am looking forward to is Mechatronics. I am very excited to be able to complete a project that group members and I will work together on, from envisioning the idea through completion of the design prototype. As I am sure you have noticed, I love the hands-on courses which I have had thus far and am excited for more of those that are in my upcoming classes (there are a lot)!