Master's Profile: Madhurima Vardhan

Madhurima VardhanCurrent position: PhD student at Duke University 

Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor of Engineering from Delhi Technological University in Delhi, India, 2013

BME Master’s Program Path:  Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering, 2013-2015

Why did you choose Duke for your graduate study?

Duke encourages collaborative research that extends beyond campus boundaries, and this collaborative environment fosters a diverse culture and rich cross-disciplinary opportunities. The moderate size of graduate programs meant more personalized and involved classes with flexible academic curriculum that could be tailored to my interests and needs. Although the research-based graduate training at Duke is easily applicable to academia, it can also be applied to any job that requires innovative thinking and creative application. All of these factors allowed for a valuable graduate experience.

What were the most valuable parts of your educational experience at Duke?

There was much I enjoyed as a master’s student at Duke, but I think the most valuable parts were knowledge I gained and the professional relationships I developed. Duke fosters an intellectually stimulating environment, and everyone here was working in pursuit of a common purpose – to innovate and discover.

What courses were the most useful?

I found BME 590 - Special Topics: Computational Foundations in Biomedical Simulations, to be incredibly helpful. The course enabled access to highly advanced computer centers, and it covered state-of-the-art applications of massively parallel algorithms in medical sciences with guest lectures from leaders in the field. By the end of the course I could write a working parallel code with a practical biomedical application.  

The other course that was immensely helpful was BME 790 - Advanced Topics: Biomedical Device Innovation. Providing access to Duke University Hospital, the course enabled students to shadow physicians and come up with a detailed need-specification statement for a novel medical device of their own. During the course, I gained experience in the process of conceptualization of idea, team collaboration and industry-based partnership.

What advice can you give to international students coming to Duke for grad school?

I encourage students to be upbeat and enthusiastic as they start their work, and to take advantage of the excellent mentoring Duke provides. You don’t need to immediately have a laser-focused research interest, and professors and fellow graduate students are a great support group who can help you refine and specialize your interests as you progress through the program. Duke’s diverse and intellectually stimulating environment gives you a lot to be excited about.

How did your Duke BME Master's experience prepare you for a PhD program?

Before I committed myself to a PhD, I wanted to be sure that I was capable of handling the demanding research. My subsequent interactions with faculty members at Duke gave me the confidence I needed to pursue a PhD that I didn’t have before starting my master’s degree. The Duke BME master’s program showed me the value of a research-oriented mindset, and it proved to me that dedicated time and effort are indispensable investments for a successful research project.

What advice do you have for students going on to a PhD after obtaining their master's?

I would recommend pursuing more research experience. I also think it’s important to discuss your plans with your graduate advisors and professors. Current PhD students are excellent resources for people who are interested in pursuing a PhD. Not only can they give you advice about how they prepared for their own PhD programs, but they can also give you more realistic insights about what to expect and how to stay motived and driven, even when things get challenging.

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