UIUC BMES chapter wins outstanding outreach award


Bethan Owen

The UIUC student chapter of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) recently won the Outstanding Outreach award at the 2022 BMES Annual Meeting. 

This award recognizes student chapters that have shown leadership and growth, with an emphasis on those who offer innovative social activities, mentoring opportunities, community outreach, and industry partnership.

“For me, personally, it meant a lot to win that award,” said Emily Murray, social chair of BMES. “Just because I spent two years on the outreach committee and one year as outreach director, it meant a lot. It showed that all of our work throughout the years really paid off.”

Competition was fierce: this award was one of only seven given to over 100 BMES student chapters across the country, which made receiving it that much more exciting to the chapter members that had devoted so much time to developing and strengthening the group. 

BMES president Grace Huberty and social chair Emily Murray at a recent pumpkin carving event
BMES president Grace Huberty and social chair Emily Murray at a recent pumpkin carving event

“It's such a big honor,” BMES president Grace Huberty. “We were really proud.

 Really excited. It also means a lot to the people that volunteered at our events because you can't host an outreach event without having volunteers to help you out. It was a big deal for the entire chapter.”

Emily and Grace share a passion for bioengineering and the role that BMES plays both on campus and in the lives of involved students. BMES offers mentoring opportunities, volunteering activities, social functions, technical presentations from outside companies, and more. It’s a group for students to develop skills, learn more about their interests, and build relationships.

“You can really feel like you're a part of a community with BMES. You can build out your friend base and your professional base,” said BMES faculty leader Jenny Amos. “Anything you're engaged in, you can find a way to really connect into BMES and the many different activities that are going on.”

When the COVID pandemic struck, all these events suddenly had to be restructured, and the BMES student leadership was faced with a dilemma. How could they keep supporting the biomedical engineering student community when they couldn’t meet in person or continue their usual activities?   

“One of the big things that we worked on last year was trying to figure out how to do hybrid events, because we couldn't do much in person,” Emily said. “We had to be creative.” 

The BMES chapter’s creativity shone through in their outreach activities with local schools. Since they could no longer get together in person, the chapter members created take-and-make science kits for the students to use, complete with instructional videos.

BMES student leadership at the 2022 BMES Annual Meeting
BMES student leadership at the 2022 BMES Annual Meeting

These kits, which contained basic supplies including a paper cut-out of a hand, straws, string, and tape, were designed to allow students to build their own prosthetic hands. 

“The goal of these kits was to make the activities simple while explaining to students the application of the prosthetic hand,” said Emily.

Household materials paired with the opportunity to understand an exciting element of bioengineering created a great interactive experience for school-aged kids.

“The students were really trying to find ways to keep members engaged in this society, and it was a challenge because people felt still really overwhelmed with this online learning and the stresses of COVID,” said Amos. “And to their credit, BMES found ways to keep people engaged. They found good ways to engage members and they took advantage of new ways to engage members, which was really great to see.”

Emily believes that their willingness to think outside the box and stay engaged with their community even when it was difficult to do so played a role in receiving their outreach award. But while Emily and Grace take pride in their hybrid engagement efforts and the award was an honor to receive, BMES isn’t content to stop there.  

“One thing that we've really worked on this year and that we want to continue to do in the future is expand to more majors,” said Emily. “I think it's really great to have a bioengineering community, but it's also nice to get to meet more people who are interested in the same thing but who are not necessarily in the major. And it's also been a really good opportunity for people who might be interested in the bioengineering department but aren't in it yet. So that’s one of our goals: to continue to expand into other engineering or biology majors.”

Social chair Emily Murray and outreach committee member Amy Lee
Social chair Emily Murray and outreach committee member Amy Lee

As part of its ongoing efforts to reach more students from a wider range of backgrounds, BMES is open to any students who are interested in biomedical engineering and making a difference in their community.

“There's a lot of different aspects to BMES that I think people don't realize,” said Grace. “And it's just such a good way to meet other people, whether you want a friend, or a mentor, or someone to help you with your really hard classes. Overall, it's just really fun.”

Whether you’re already passionate about biomedical science or are just curious to learn what biomedical science is, consider reaching out to the chapter! You can join the organization, learn more about their activities by signing up for their newsletter, and more. 

“Join the chapter!” said Amos. “No matter what a student is interested in, there’s something going on at BMES.”