Student Spotlight: Valentina Guarino
Valentina Guarino always had a passion for helping others.
She volunteers with Special Olympics, something she started doing at a young age, and spends time helping with adaptive sports at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. This led her to develop a strong interest in biomechanics.
“Seeing kids struggle with heavy, inconvenient biotechnology on a daily basis bothered me,” she said. “On the other hand, seeing children with effective, modern assistive technology further inspired me to approach the field. I believe we should all have the same opportunities physically, mentally and emotionally, regardless of ability or lack thereof. Creating innovative biomechanics will truly help achieve this goal.”
Guarino chose College of DuPage because of its Engineering Pathways program. Students who complete the program have guaranteed admission into the Engineering program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and she wanted to attend one of the most elite engineering schools in the nation.
“As a student who pays for her own schooling, it was the overall smartest choice to make,” she said. “COD truly showed me that college is what you make of it. You are in control of your experience, and it is up to you to strive for what you want to achieve.”
Guarino’s time at College of DuPage has helped her grow, both as a student and as a person, and she has learned how to balance her time between the rigorous engineering coursework and her job.
During the summer of 2016, Guarino was part of the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at Northwestern University working on the Materials Genome Initiative. The goal of this large-scale project is to predict properties through a combination of data mining and physics-based modeling. The research opportunity was funded by the College of DuPage Foundation’s Resource for Excellence Grant program.
“I am still incredibly thankful for the opportunity and to Dr. Richard Jarman (COD professor of Chemistry),” she said. “Northwestern is an incredible research institution and hopefully one day I can continue my education in prosthetics and orthotics in one of their graduate programs.”
Guarino transferred to UIUC and landed a summer internship with Procter and Gamble as an engineering intern in the Packaging Development Department in Cincinnati, Ohio. Before earning a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and graduating with high honors, she accepted a full-time position with Baxter Healthcare and now is part of their Technical Development program. The two-year rotational program will give her experience across different research and development functions, including innovation, product design, development and manufacturing.
Guarino is glad that she started her higher education career at College of DuPage, because it helped her transfer to one of the top engineering schools in the country.
“COD definitely shaped me into the student that I am, and UIUC has been able to make my skills known to companies and organizations around the world,” she said. “The smaller, more intimate class sizes at COD definitely helped create strong relationships not only with professors, but also with my fellow students. In fact, my COD professors have helped me land impressive internships and my Engineering Pathways alums are still some of my closest friends down at UIUC – we even have an intramural soccer team. I have noticed that the Pathways students have solid fundamental engineering knowledge and more efficient study habits than many students at larger institutions.
“If there is one thing I have learned as a student, besides to pack extra snacks, it is that everything may seem impossible until it is done. Through my time at COD and UIUC, I have seen that through hard work and persistence, you can truly achieve anything you set your mind to. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and when you do receive help, don’t forget to be grateful. Who says you can’t have it all?”
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