Alumni Profiles

Carolyn Bayer, Ph.D. 2009

BayerCL headshot

Current Job

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Tulane University

When did you know you were interested in biomedical engineering?

Towards the end of high school, when I had to make a decision about a major in college, I was considering medicine-related career options. My parents encouraged me to consider engineering — my father was an engineer so I was familiar with the field. Biomedical engineering is a natural combination of the two.

What prompted you to pursue a graduate degree in biomedical engineering?

I worked in industry after my bachelor’s degree, but was lucky enough to work in research and development departments; several mentors (who had PhDs themselves) encouraged me to return to graduate school for a PhD, so that I could have the same career advancement opportunities that they did. I also began to see the potential benefits of an academic career – the opportunity to teach and mentor students was a strongly motivating factor behind my decision to return to graduate school.

Why did you choose UT Austin?

It was apparent during the graduate school recruitment visit at UT Austin that the faculty was very engaged with their students; the level of support and mentorship was a critical deciding factor for me. Additionally, the opportunity to work with world-class researchers with fantastic facilities made UT an easy choice.

What are your career goals?

Now that I am in a tenure-track position – my career goal is simply to get tenure!

What type of research did you do while at UT Austin? Who did you study with and what did you study?

My graduate work was with Dr. Nicholas Peppas, developing conductive polymer materials as biomolecular sensors. I stayed at UT Austin for my postdoctoral fellowship, working with Dr. Stanislav Emelianov in ultrasound and photoacoustic imaging.

What were our most influential courses/research experiences/professors at UT?

Courses: Dr. Mia Markey showed us not just how to do statistics, but how to be rigorous about teaching. Dr. Andy Dunn introduced me to optical imaging – when I took his course, I didn’t know that it would play a large role in my future research, but the material was later invaluable for me. And, of course, the guidance and mentorship of Dr. Peppas and Dr. Emelianov was unparalleled. As a faculty member now, I often think back upon how others mentored and supported my work to help guide me in my current approach and decisions.

What were some of your most memorable experiences in BME?

BMES in Austin and Dr. Peppas' 60th birthday celebration

What can students focus on to improve themselves as potential candidates for jobs?

There is a variety of opportunities for BME graduates. I think the key is recognizing which types of jobs you are drawn to, talking with individuals in those careers about what knowledge and skills a new employee in that field is expected to know, and then making sure you gain those skills through your coursework, internships, or even online courses.

What do you like most about your job? What aspects are most challenging?

Being an academic principal investigator offers a lot of freedom to choose the projects that you spend your time on. Additionally, my closest co-workers (my students) are at an exciting and energetic point in their lives, and I get to help guide them through the transition from student to independent adult. The most challenging aspect right now is the amount of energy spent planning – planning courses, lectures, grant proposals, new collaborations, research projects and experiments — at all levels, everything requires careful thought, planning, and then often the execution is by someone else while you continue to plan!

How did your experience at UT Austin prepare you for where you are today?

Besides the degree, the great research experiences, and mentorship, it gives me perspective on what a great BME department can be.

Do you miss anything about UT Austin, or living in Austin? If so, what?

I miss everything about Austin! Austin will always feel like home to my family and I — all of my children were born in Austin, and we will return as often as we can to see all of our friends and former co-workers/mentors for years to come.