Chatting with One of Our First Alumni - Polina Segalova '06, Stanford Ph.D.

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Interview by Olin Communications Assistant  Ariana Chae '15

Q: Congrats - you are one of the first Olin alumni to earn a Ph.D.!  Can you tell us a bit more about your field of study?

A: I did my Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford. I did research that was focused on medical devices for the cardiovascular system, and  the title of my dissertation was "Evaluating Design and Safety of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Endografts." A lot of the work was computational - solving fluid dynamic problems, and there was also a component where I built systems to validate the model results I was getting.

 

Q: Wow - that sounds great!  Can you tell us a bit more about your research?

A: I studied how different implantable devices used to treat abdominal aortic aneurysms affect blood flow once they are actually inside the body. Do they cause damage to the blood? Do they alter the blood distribution to various parts of the body? How does blood flow compare between different patients? These are all important questions that need to be addressed when it comes to endovascular devices. I used CT image data from actual patients to construct computational flow models to answer some of these questions. If you're really interested, you can read about some of my work in ASME's Journal of Medical Devices (http://link.aip.org/link/?MED/5/041005).

 

Q: What have you been up to since finishing your Ph.D. last fall, and what comes next?

A: I got married. I also did some traveling; I took about six weeks off - we went to Thailand, Peru and Argentina. Once I get back to California, I'll start looking for jobs in the medical device industry. I know I'll start out in medical devices, probably cardiovascular, so things that deal with the heart or the blood vessels. I also know that I'd like to get to the point where I'm overseeing projects of my own.

 

Polina_Wedding.jpgQ: What activities were you involved in outside of the classroom while at Stanford?

A: I actually was pretty heavily involved with the student government starting with my first year. One of the things that immediately struck me about being at Stanford was the fact that there wasn't a bonded graduate experience, so it was very different from Olin, where you come out with the friends that you've made along the way, with all these shared experiences. Grad school was just very different; you show up and they hand you a folder that explains things like your department, you get your apartment keys, and you're kind of on your own from then on.  I felt this was a shame because there were so many amazing people that I knew would be worthwhile to meet. So I became involved with the Graduate Student Council, and we organized the first campus-wide grad student orientation. That happened the year after I got there, and the program is still going. By my third year I was elected chair of the Graduate Student Council. I was also the chair of the funding committee, which basically means I oversaw funding for different groups and clubs at Stanford. That was interesting too because you got to see all the different things happening on campus.

 

Q: How has what you learned at Olin helped you?

A: Aside from the fundamentals, I think more than anything Olin gave me the confidence to, as they say, "...jump into the deep end of the pool."  During grad school, I realized just how little I knew and how in some ways I had a very long way to go.   So just getting comfortable with the feeling that you don't know anything was something that I took from Olin. I think once you get over that feeling or get comfortable with it, you can start to learn new things and not be held back.

 

Q: Do you have any advice for current Olin students?

A: Number one is definitely to take advantage of the professors. I think it's absolutely amazing the access that you have at Olin to the professors. The fact that they are so enthusiastic about nurturing and developing you as a person and as a scholar is definitely huge. The other thing I would say is not only take advantage of your professors but don't forget your peers, both on the academic level when you're working together and learning from them, but also on a personal level.  It is in your social interactions that you have the opportunity to really build these friendships and develop bonds with some pretty amazing people. I think in many ways you don't realize how special Olin and your fellow students there really are until you leave and find you don't have that anymore. Finally, use the Olin network. We've had six classes graduate already and Olin alumni are out there doing some pretty amazing things. Don't be afraid to reach out to us for help or advice.

 

Polina3.jpgIf you'd like to hear what other members of the first class are up to, check out this video from their 5-year reunion last fall!

Posted in: Alumni Speak, Graduate School