Third-year biomedical engineering student Mira Mutnick has been named a Goldwater Scholar for 2022, one of the nation’s most prestigious honors for undergraduates in science, math, and engineering.
Mutnick has been part of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University since she was a high school senior and worked as an intern in Cassie Mitchell’s lab. That was the beginning of a long line of research experiences that took Mutnick to other labs at Tech as well as the University of Houston and Tel Aviv University in Israel.
“I have had a lot of research experience as I narrowed down my particular field of interest, and I am so grateful for every opportunity I have had the honor of pursuing,” said Mutnick, whose work has included co-authoring a study published in 2021. She has worked in data science, tested wheelchair cushion performance, and helped develop customizable 3D-printed hand splints for children with cerebral palsy. Now she’s looking at doctorate programs, where being a Goldwater Scholar will help set her apart, she said.
“Applying for the Goldwater Scholarship helped me learn how to write about my experiences and goals in a coherent manner, which are skills that I will take with me when applying for graduate programs and graduate fellowships,” Mutnick said. “Being named a Goldwater Scholar will help my graduate application both in prestige and the skillset to talk about how my past experiences contribute to my career goals.”
The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation selects scholars based on their potential to become the nation’s next generation of research leaders. Mutnick wants to pursue a Ph.D. and a faculty position at a research university, driven by a desire to both represent and help people with disabilities.
Mutnick has a brittle-bone condition that means she uses crutches or a wheelchair sometimes to get around. After spending significant time in doctors’ offices as a child, she said, “I knew I wanted to help people in my disabled community, and that I loved math and science. I thought, ‘How cool would it be to make prosthetics?’ and that is when I discovered biomedical engineering.”
“Oftentimes disabled people are the ‘patient’ or the ‘subject,’ not the engineer or the research partner. While this lack of representation is a little discouraging, I recognize the role I can play by pursuing this field,” said Mutnick, who plans to graduate in Fall 2022. “I can serve as a voice for the disabled community in accessible design and assistive technology, and as disability representation in STEM for others in my community — just as Dr. Mitchell was for me.”
Mutnick is the fifth Coulter Department student to win a Goldwater Scholarship since 2019. She was part of the second group of students in the Georgia Tech Enhancing Science, Technology, EnginEering, and Math Educational Diversity (GT-ESTEEMED) Scholarship and Educational Program, a National Institutes of Health-funded program to build a pipeline of biomedical researchers from underrepresented groups. She participated in the Honors Program at Tech and is pursuing the International Plan designation for her degree.
Academic institutions nominated more than 1,200 students for the Goldwater Scholarship this year. Mutnick is one of 64 engineering students in the 2022 cohort of scholars, which also included 45 math and computer science majors, and 308 majoring in natural sciences.
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