Biochemical engineering student Alexandria Asmerom isn’t one of those people who grew up knowing exactly what she wanted to do. And that’s exactly why she chose the University of Georgia.
“I liked that it was not just an engineering school. The fact that there are many degrees and majors gave me a lot of comfort. I knew that if engineering didn’t work out for me, there were so many other options,” said Asmerom. Spoiler: It worked out.
“When I got here and realized how social and open and welcoming everyone was, it’s definitely what kept me here,” said Asmerom, the first engineer in her family. “I started finding a community within the college and I knew that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.”
A highlight of her UGA experience was being part of the winning 2021 capstone design team. Their project on SARS-CoV-2 VLP Vaccine Production Process Design won the Medical Device or Biological Process Design category.
“That was the best and worst part of college,” she laughed. “It was the hardest because it was so complex and seemed almost never-ending. The whole time I was questioning, ‘Why do I do this to myself? Why didn’t I pick something simpler?’ But it was something I was really interested in, and being able to actually complete it and present our project was the most amazing feeling.”
Raised in Lilburn, Georgia, Asmerom’s dad is East African and her mom is African American. She credits her parents for her motivation and passion for education. “They are very academically driven and very community-service driven,” she said. “I learned a lot about what I want to be through watching them. Being a hard worker definitely came from them pushing me, even if it was just ‘You need to do more math problems in the summer.”
During her time at UGA, Asmerom, who had no Black teachers prior to coming to Athens, realized that simply being who she is could help inspire others.
During her first year on the executive board, NSBE started a junior chapter and headed to Barnett Shoals and J.J. Harris elementary schools to teach kids about STEM, using fun projects like building bridges with blocks. “We wanted to show the kids you can have fun with engineering and creating things, but it was also about just being that positive role model to show them different possibilities they can do with their education.”
She also worked as a tutor through a nonprofit called Feed My Sheep, putting in close to 200 hours a year teaching kids from kindergarten age through high school. Working with students inspired her future career goals.
After graduation, she plans to take a job in pharmaceutical or supply chain engineering for a few years, then head back to school to pursue her Ph.D. in biochemical engineering.
“I want to be a biochemical engineering professor. Throughout my time as a student and serving the community, I realized how much I love teaching, guiding and inspiring others. One day, I hope I can encourage students to pursue education the way my professors have encouraged me. I also want to encourage more women and people of color to pursue any field of interest. Women make up 32.5% of professors nationwide, and only 6% are black. I want to help change those statistics.”
She will get to put her inspirational skills to use as the convocation speaker for the College of Engineering. “My speech is centered around embracing the unknown and encouraging and inspiring my fellow classmates to always be the best that they can be no matter what lies ahead.”