By Cathy Torrisi
It was a traumatic accident his junior year of high school that inspired Adam Eichen to pursue a career in biomedical engineering. Today, the talented sophomore’s drive and determination to earn an advanced degree in his field have secured him a spot among the ranks of the newly established UConn McNair Scholars.
Eichen is one of 13 students recently selected for the McNair Scholars Program, which supports bright, motivated, first-generation, low-income and/or underrepresented students in their pursuit of doctoral degrees in the STEM fields. The program is run by the Center for Academic Programs and funded by a $1.1 million five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
The skateboarding accident that nearly cost Eichen his foot also gave him a professional direction in life. He was inspired by the gifted orthopedic surgeon and former engineer who pieced his broken bones together with metal pins and plates.
Eichen is now fully healed, but still has several pieces of metal embedded in his leg. He can have them removed, but only with more painful surgery. One day he hopes to help individuals in similar circumstances avoid such pain.
“I would love a chance to help develop surgical implants that would combine the needed strength and integrity with the ability to degrade over time, eliminating the need for additional surgery,” he told the McNair selection committee.
Eichen is also interested in developing artificial skin for burn victims and artificial plasma to address chronic blood shortages in hospitals.
“In order to do these things, I know I must pursue an advanced degree in BME,” Eichen says, “and I am committed to do so.”
In addition to the McNair program, Eichen is a member of the Honors Program and the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), another organization that supports underrepresented students in the STEM fields. He is also house manager for the Kappa Sigma fraternity. When he isn’t studying, the New Jersey native enjoys soccer, skateboarding and playing the guitar.
Eichen’s injury is not the only difficulty he has faced. His mother was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and is currently undergoing treatment.
“My path to this point has not been an easy one,” he acknowledges, “but without the obstacles I have experienced, I would be in a very different place. I am glad that through my experience I have learned the value of an engineering degree, and I am excited to continue my education and make a difference of my own.”