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Studying Abroad as an Engineer: Joseph Reda ’18

Joseph Reda ’18, a University of Miami biomedical engineering major with a concentration in biomaterials and tissue engineering, studied abroad in Rome, Italy, during the fall semester of 2017. Although Reda had never studied Italian before, he had set his heart on visiting Italy and learning about his family’s country of origin.

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve intended to visit Italy,” Reda explains. “I wanted to reconnect with my heritage, to learn more about who I was and where my family came from, so I seized the earliest opportunity I had and applied to study abroad.”

Few engineering majors decide to study abroad, which makes sense – an engineering courseload is enough work as it is. There is a large breadth of technical information that is covered in an engineering curriculum, which results in a relatively rigid schedule for classes that depend on course sequences and availabilities.

Reda credits his engineering education at the U, which has continually prompted him to apply a problem-solving mindset in various areas of his life, both within and beyond classes. He says the key to studying abroad and organizing a course schedule within the parameters and graduation requirements of an engineer, is to plan as soon as you have a remote inclination to study abroad.

“If you start early, you will figure it out,” Reda says.

While studying at the American University of Rome, Reda not only focused on his engineering education, but also on traveling and embracing the Italian culture. The differences in mannerisms in Italy – and Europe overall – influenced how he views the norms of the American culture, giving him a different perspective to the world he lives in.

After graduating, Reda plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering with a focus on drug delivery systems development. “I look forward to becoming integrated with the research community, developing novel solutions to pressing medical problems pertaining to bioactive factor delivery and looking into entrepreneurial opportunities along the way,” says Reda.

Reda currently works in the Physiomimetic Microsystems Laboratory under the direction of Ashutosh Agarwal – an assistant professor in the College’s Department of Biomedical Engineering. As a research assistant, he develops artificial environments that mimic kidneys to culture podocytes – cells in the Bowman’s capsule in the kidneys that wrap around capillaries of the glomerulus – and recapitulate kidney filtration.

“A long-term goal of this research is to create an in vitro system for drug toxicity screening. With the degree of autonomy I have in the lab, I need to deliberately spend my time in a valuable way. This practice of mindful time management proved invaluable in making the most of my semester abroad.”

Reda’s extracurricular activities in UM also helped him in Italy. He explains that Model United Nations helped him become comfortable not just in public speaking situations, but in meeting large numbers of new people in what feels like a high-pressure scenario.

“Going abroad mostly alone required making the most of social opportunities and going out of my comfort zone to meet people. I felt ready and able to do this, because of my experiences at the University of Miami.”

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