How this biomedical mentorship program is adapting to make virtual connections

Bioengineering senior Carrigan Hudgins reflects on Rice BMES's efforts during COVID.

Biomedical Engineering Society virtual meeting

Connecting people and providing meaningful experiences for students has become uniquely challenging without opportunities to gather in person. This situation was of course unpredictable, but I’ve been repeatedly impressed by how students and faculty have adapted. Rice’s Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) has put in the effort to adapt our traditional events to a virtual format and to recognize new opportunities for connection.

Every year, we host a mentorship program with upperclassman and faculty mentors and underclassman mentees. This year, we’ve shifted the mentorship program to Zoom and had surprisingly strong engagement at our first event last semester. Especially during COVID, casual interactions across years and with faculty have been limited outside of class. Scheduling virtual events can help restore some level of normalcy and community. In addition to the mentorship program, we hosted a virtual design competition during the summer.

From the design competition, we began to recognize the advantages offered by virtual events. Our connections are no longer limited by distance, and we had attendees from all over the United States. Further, this semester, we are starting a biweekly Python workshop for casual learning. I don’t think a Python workshop would’ve been a consideration in previous years. The idea arose this year when brainstorming meaningful learning opportunities that can easily be implemented with Zoom. Although a lot of negativity has been introduced by the pandemic, I also admire Rice students' resiliency and creativity throughout it. 

I’ve talked about adapting and building connections during the pandemic, but I think it’s also important to grant ourselves and others extra grace during this time. Engagement is often less than usual, motivation is lacking, and the obstacles that come along with COVID are simply not something anyone signed up for.

We shouldn’t blame ourselves when student culture is not normal because the circumstances presented to us this year have been far from normal. We are all doing our best!

By Carrigan Hudgins '21