Welcome to Collegiate Gateway’s new blog column, a series of Q&As with college students! Previously, we interviewed Dean Vayias, a senior at Boston College. Here, in the second installment, we’re featuring Sheng Bai, a 19-year-old from Queens, New York. Sheng is currently a sophomore at the University of Michigan, where he’s studying biomedical engineering.

What did you imagine college would be like? Has it been different than you expected?

Prior to attending college, I had heard contrasting views of the experience, mainly differentiated by major. The two most distinct views were, on the one hand, that college was extremely easy compared to high school and left time to fully explore one’s interests, and, on the other hand, that the endless workload made it impossible to do anything else. Personally, I’ve found that there is a bit of truth to both views. Although some majors do have exceedingly more work than others, it is ultimately up to the individual to control how much time they spend working. As an engineering major, I often find that I spend 2-3 times more time on homework and studying compared to high school. It definitely is extremely rigorous but I still manage to find time to relax and hang out with friends. It can feel especially daunting to do anything else when there are many assignments incomplete, but I find obsessing over assignments that I am making minimal headway on to be counterintuitive. It’s always important to get enough rest, and I try to make sure that I am able to let loose and have fun while staying on top of assignments.

Where have you made your closest friends at school?

In the first week of school, I became friends with a group of people that I met at a celebration for incoming sophomore students. After introducing myself and getting acquainted with everyone in the group, we began to hang out together, mostly when going out to eat. I quickly became close to them and I often find myself going over to their apartment to play board games. I became close with another group of friends in biomechanics, one of my biomedical engineering classes. We first became acquainted when we all sat at the same table for a lecture early in the semester. During the break at the halfway point of the two-hour lecture, we introduced ourselves and began talking, and hit it off quite nicely. We began to meet more frequently to work on homework together, which we found ourselves doing often (sometimes more than 10 hours in one day), as the homework more often than not was extremely challenging. As we became more familiar with each other, we began to meet up outside of academic activities. I regularly go to the gym with a friend I made from my biomechanics class and occasionally play videogames with him as well.

What’s your major, and why did you choose it? What has it been like so far?

My major is Biomedical Engineering, which isn’t exactly a common major. In fact, before specialized classes during freshman year, I had not seen a single biomedical engineering student in any of my required engineering classes. During high school, I had no idea what kind of major I wanted to pursue, but I had an interest in math and science and liked to build stuff so I felt like I wanted to do engineering. I also had been fascinated by the intricacies of human biology for a long time, and knew I wanted to delve into a major with a focus on the body that had the potential to help the lives of many others. I didn’t really know how I would be able to connect these interests as I wasn’t very familiar with engineering or biology majors but thanks to Julie at Collegiate Gateway, I was introduced to biomedical engineering, which was an amalgamation of all my interests. Thus far, I’ve taken two biomedical engineering courses, which are radically different from each other. One is biochemistry and thermodynamics while the other is biomechanics. Biomedical engineering dabbles in most other types of engineering, just with a focus on biomedical applications. So far, I’ve been enjoying biomechanics, which I plan on further specializing in, much more than biochemistry and thermodynamics.

What extracurricular activity has been most meaningful to you and why?

The extracurricular activity that has been the most meaningful to me was MedLaunch, in which student teams address issues in healthcare. I’m on a project team called the Robot Arm Project, which aims to design and deliver a robotic arm that can be attached to a wheelchair to help people with muscular dystrophy. Unlike other project teams where I join a subteam and work only on the specific aspect (mechanical, electrical, assembly), MedLaunch has your group work on the process from beginning to end. So, through this activity, I’ve been able to go through the entire process of having an idea, designing and testing it, and finally presenting it.

Could you describe what a typical week looks like for you?

On Mondays and Wednesdays, I have an hour-long materials science lecture in the morning, followed by biochemistry and thermodynamics. I eat lunch with a friend in the dining hall, then do homework in my apartment (Mondays) or go to a library to work before an evening MedLaunch meeting (Wednesdays). On Tuesdays, I have a biomechanics class in the morning; after, I usually eat brunch with a friend, then go back to my apartment to do homework. I eat dinner with another friend before heading back to my apartment to join a meeting for Michigan Neuroprosthetics, another extracurricular activity that I’m a part of. On Thursdays, I have the same biomechanics class in the morning, then two more classes—a discussion session for materials science, and a lab for differential equations—throughout the rest of the day. I eat lunch and dinner with friends.

On Friday afternoons, I usually either end up working until midnight with friends, or going out to eat dinner with a group of friends at a restaurant before going over to their apartment to play card games. As for the weekend, I’m usually working on next week’s homework on Saturday and also playing videogames with friends. On Sundays, I attend another MedLaunch meeting in the morning. The rest of the day is also spent working on homework and playing videogames with friends; sometimes I meet up in person with a group of friends to hang out.

What do you hope to do after you graduate?

I hope to work with medical devices, particularly prosthetics or bionics. I’ve already begun exploring that path through Michigan Neuroprosthetics, and I hope to keep learning more. In the future, I wish to aid in eradicating the many shortcomings that prosthetics face compared to their biological counterparts, as well as help make them affordable.

Thank you to Sheng Bai for participating in our Student Q&A series! Asking questions to current students at schools on your list can help you decide on your best college fit in the college admissions process. Explore the upcoming presentations on our website or set up a complimentary consultation to learn about our services. Whatever your question, Collegiate Gateway is happy to help!