Kathryn Kukla '12-Health Professions Program - Carnegie Mellon University

Kathryn Kukla '12

Interests: Biomedical and Chemical Engineering, Medical School

When she was a young girl, Kathryn Kukla wasn’t shy about telling people what she wanted to be when she grew up. “I was going to be a doctor, a vet, and an architect. I was determined,” says Kukla.

But a serendipitous class at a 4-H Roundup program set Kukla, then in the seventh grade, down a slightly different path. It turned out that Kukla had a knack for engineering, and she learned about another career choice that would allow her to combine all of her interests—biomedical engineering.

“Ever since then, I knew I was going to study biomedical engineering,” says the junior biomedical and chemical engineering double major.

Kukla is still pursuing her dream of becoming a doctor and recognizes that her engineering background will serve her well in medical school and beyond.

“One of the nice things about being an engineer is that we learn how to look at an entire process; we are given inputs and an ultimate goal and are expected to work through every detail of the process to get the desired result or information. I feel that the problem-solving skills and the different ways of thinking that I have to employ to get my end result allow me to continuously take on more challenging problems and tasks both inside and outside of the classroom. I hope to use these engineering skills to build on the knowledge I will learn in medical school in order to continue to improve patient care by not letting the little details go unnoticed.”

Outside of the classroom, Kukla volunteers at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC and conducts research at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. She joined Dr. Stephen Badylak’s lab in May 2009 and is already working on her own project. After spending some time working with cardiac extracellular matrix(ECM) and macrophage polarization, she is now working with adipose ECM. Her current project involves characterizing adipose ECM gels to be used in various regenerative medicine applications.

“The lab I’m working in does a really nice job of taking the research from bench side to bedside, and I enjoy helping in that process.”

When she’s not in the classroom, the hospital, or the laboratory, Kukla is an active member of the Carnegie Mellon community. She is a contributing editor for the Tartan; a Peer Health Advocate; a member, Mentoring Program Chair, and the Region Collegiate Membership Coordinator for the Society of Women Engineers, and plays the xylophone and the chimes in the Kiltie Band—to name just a few of her activities. She also shares her knowledge by tutoring middle school and high school students. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with friends, baking, and taking advantage of the many opportunities available in the Pittsburgh community.
 
“Carnegie Mellon has provided me with more opportunities than I could have imagined. I’m eternally grateful for the resources and opportunities they provide.”