Garner Studies Bioengineering at Clemson University.

Clubs and interests: Athletics
Q. How did you first know you wanted to be a scientist or engineer?

A. When I was younger, I would always go into my mom’s purse and take apart all of her pens and then reconstruct them because I liked seeing how things worked. I would also just always be trying to build mechanisms out of random things I found around the house. So picking engineering as a career just made sense to me.  But I didn’t decide on Biomedical Engineering until later in life when I started getting injured frequently because of soccer. I endured both bone and soft tissue injuries, and, in my experience, the soft tissue injuries are harder to recover from. This is why my passion lies with tissue engineering and stem cell research. I’ve also always wanted to choose a profession that helps others, and I feel like Biomedical Engineering allows me to do that in many different ways.

What has been your favorite experience or interaction this summer and why?

Meeting new people that are very similar to me but also different. I think it’s wonderful how we all have different backgrounds and are able to get along for 10 weeks and actually become friends. Some of these connections will last for a lifetime, whether for personal or professional reasons.
What positive impact do you hope to make in the future? Is there a big societal problem that you would like to help solve?

Since I’ve spent most of my life playing soccer and receiving injuries, I would like to take on the challenge of researching different biomaterials that can help with common soft tissue sport injuries via angiogenesis. Some of those injuries include ankle sprains, groin pulls, hamstring strains, rotator cuff injuries, ACL/MCL tears, and tennis elbow.  My hope with this type of research is that the results would impact an athlete’s recovery time, allowing a faster return to play.
How do you think that your experience this summer may help you to meet your personal mission? 

My project this summer was on the muscle modeling Volumetric Muscle Loss. Honestly it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do, but it’s nice to have a background in muscle modeling—especially since what I do want to do is involves testing biomaterials for regenerative medicine. Also, I think just speaking with people within my lab has helped me sharpen communication and presentation skills. These people are also connections that I will have when after the REU to help guide me and support me through the rest of my academic career.
What’s next for you?

After this REU I will be going back to Clemson as a rising 4th year. Since I transferred my junior year, I will end up graduating as a 5th year senior; so I do have two more years left. My goal is to try to connect with a PI at my home institution to get more involved with research since I’ve enjoyed my time at UVA so much. This REU program helped me realize that after undergrad I want to apply to grad school to get a PhD, not just a masters as before. As of now, regenerative medicine and techniques is what I would like my PhD research to be on, but that could obviously change in two years.