Graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Engineering and minors in chemistry and mathematics, Tessa Burrows is a College of Engineering all-star.
Coming to Utah State from Denver, Colo., Burrows started her education studying mechanical engineering, but her work in the lab shifted her passion to biological engineering.
“I have always been interested in engineering, and my first year at USU, I really wanted to work to bridge the gap between biological and mechanical engineering with a deeper look into prosthetics and the integration of the sense of touch and pressure into a prosthetic,” Burrows said. “My work in the lab has shifted my focus and helped me discover my passion for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.”
During her time at USU, Burrows worked in Dr. Elizabeth Vargis’ lab conducting research to improve the current model of the retina in order to make it more accurate for studying age-related macular degeneration.
“I love working on projects where I get to apply the material I learn in class to my lab work,” Burrows said. “It’s incredibly satisfying to learn about something in lecture and apply it to experiments I have in progress.”
Burrows has worked closely with Dr. Vargis in the Vargis Lab, as well as through the University Honors program and the Society of Women Engineers.
Dr. Vargis admires Burrows for her ability to recognize and work through her limitations.
“The best part about Tessa is her acknowledgment of her own limitations, in terms of her ability to do research, whether the techniques or the actual time in her schedule. Once she recognizes her limitations, she speaks to someone about it, so we can work on solutions and alternative approaches,” said Dr. Vargis. “This extremely mature characteristic is something most undergraduate students don’t have.”
While at Utah State, Burrows was a member of the University Honors Program, an Undergraduate Research Fellow, and served as an officer for the USU Society of Women Engineers.
“I was in the Society for Women in Engineering which is full of strong, determined, and kind people that gave me some of the tools and opportunities I needed to graduate and pursue a career in engineering,” Burrows said. “I have great memories of retreats, workshops, conferences and study halls that helped me discover what I love about engineering, and how I can use my knowledge and position to support engineers from all walks of life.”
Alexa Sand, associate vice president for research at Utah State, has worked closely with Burrows through the Undergraduate Research Fellowship program and admires her brilliant mind, great sense of humor, and remarkable commitment.
“Academically, of course, she’s a superstar, but what really stands out is her generosity and her commitment to helping others succeed. She has played an active role as a peer mentor in the Vargis lab, as an officer for the Society of Women Engineers, and as a URF,” Sand said. “Whenever we need a student to step up and provide some boots-on-the-ground insight, she’s in the mix.”
Sand is inspired by Burrow’s positive attitude and as a model for how to be a successful person in both research and academics.
“It’s pretty rare in a person so young to have so much perspective (humor, a certain dash of cynicism), and still be as completely dedicated and absorbed in her research,” said Sand. “I’ve loved seeing her develop as a science communicator, and I really think she will change the world for the better with her work, and make anyplace she does work a better place.”
Burrows will be starting her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in the fall, specializing in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.
“I had a great experience at USU and really found a great community in my major, research, and at my work,” Burrows said. “I’m sad to leave all the mountains and beautiful sunsets behind, but I am excited to continue to apply my major to my work.”
Outside of academics, Burrows enjoys playing Dungeons and Dragons with her friends, attending plays and concerts, and the outdoors.
“When I’m back home in Colorado I love to go hiking in the mountains, especially the 14ers, and national parks. My favorite thing to do in Logan is to drive up to Bear Lake to watch the sun rise with a friend and some coffee,” said Burrows. “It means waking up super early, but the sights are worth it.”
As an exemplary student and an experienced researcher, Burrows offers this advice to her fellow Aggies: “Know your limits and don’t be afraid to turn down opportunities.”