Mason Graduate Profile: Katrina Colucci-Chang, BS Bioengineering ‘17
Written by Janet Ha Poirot
According to a survey 2016 Mason graduates, the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment reports that “students who met with academic advisors at least 7 times graduated within 4 years at a higher rate (63%) than those who used academic advising services with less frequency.” For Katrina Colucci-Chang, who graduated Cum Laude this May with a major in Bioengineering and a minor in Dance, this statistic certainly rang true. “Some years I was seeing my advisor, Claudia Borke, every month. I would never have gotten through the maze of paperwork and known what classes were the best suited for my interests if it wasn’t for my advisor,” says Katrina.
The advice Katrina has for an incoming George Mason freshman is to get involved in clubs and organizations and to follow your beliefs. If you are passionate about a topic, then that passion will guide you towards making a presence in your department. She also recommends students to get to know their advisors to feel comfortable asking them questions. Katrina says, “At first I was shy about meeting with my advisor but I would always see her at events taking pictures of students and posting them on the website which showed how much she cared. She was approachable and available.”
When Katrina won the NASA Aeronautics Scholarship, she turned to her advisor for guidance. Her advisor was the one who understood that since the NASA scholarship was both a scholarship and an internship, there were separate processes for each and was able help Katrina fill out all the necessary paperwork and point her towards the next steps. “Claudia was very organized, had strong institutional knowledge and helped me navigate a confusing process,” says Katrina. During her NASA internship, Katrina worked with commercial airline pilots on a research project measuring biological signals of the pilots such as heartrate, brainwaves, perspiration and respiration rate. These measurements were taken as pilots responded to various scenarios while flying a plane simulator. The researchers and students studied how the pilot’s biometric signals changed and entered the biometric data into an Artificial Intelligence smart computer where AI would attempt to predict the emotions of these pilots based on the readings.
Katrina developed a love for research at the age of ten when she would visit her father at his lab. Her father was a Chemical Engineering professor at the University of Puerto Rico and he would take her on field work trips where he would study renewable energy sources such as microalgae farms. Her parents nurtured a love for science in Katrina at an early age. This fall, Katrina will continue her studies at Virginia Tech’s Biomedical Engineering PhD program.