With a strong academic record and two to three years’ experience working in a university research laboratory while still in high school, Nick Anderson pretty much had his pick of engineering schools.
As a graduate of Boulder High School, he was already quite familiar with CU Engineering and his winning the Boettcher Scholarship sealed the deal. The scholarship offers a full ride to attend any accredited Colorado university for four years.
“I love it here—I’m really glad I stayed,” says Anderson, adding that because his father was in the Navy, he moved as many as 10 times during his childhood. “I like the fact that CU is a big university; we have so many opportunities here.”
In particular, Anderson enjoys outdoor activities, including climbing Colorado’s “Fourteeners” and playing lacrosse. As a freshman majoring in mechanical engineering with a biomedical option, and a member of CU-Boulder’s President’s Leadership Class, he is finding a lot of demands on his time, however.
His primary focus is working in the laboratory of assistant professor Mark Rentschler, a faculty member engaged in medical device design. Anderson has worked with PhD students to conduct tread testing for Rentschler’s surgical crawler―a robotic device to be used in surgery―and to measure peristaltic forces in the gastrointestinal tract, which impacts the crawler’s design.
Anderson also applied for and received a grant from CU’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program to design, build and test two cameras for laproscopic surgery. The grant was funded in conjunction with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Anderson was the only freshman and the only mechanical engineer to receive such a grant.
“It was a good introduction to research,” Anderson says, noting that he completed the project on his own without working under a PhD student. As a sophomore, he plans to begin a new research project on thermal tissue fusion sponsored by a medical equipment company as part of the college’s Discovery Learning Apprenticeship Program.
Looking forward a few years, Anderson is considering applying for an MD/PhD program in which he can pursue both patient care and medical research. For him, it’s a matter of impact. In medicine, a doctor has the potential to improve life for his or her patient, while research can be disseminated to people throughout the world.
“If you can discover something that can really help people, you can help millions of people,” he says. “It’s also incredibly interesting; the more you look at things, the more questions arise. And to discover something that no one has known before is incredibly cool.”