Reaching Ambitious Goals with a PlusOne
Sarah Adamo, E’22, electrical engineering, ME’23, electrical and computer engineering, has ambitious goals for her future, and the PlusOne program is the next step on her path to reaching them. A very driven and passionate person, Adamo reveals “I think you can feel when you’re on the right path… as you can tell I’m very excited about this and I can talk about my passions for hours!”
The PlusOne program initially interested Adamo because she’s always known that she wanted to pursue a master’s degree. “I think that you learn a lot of foundational knowledge at the undergraduate level, but then in the master’s program, you have the chance to apply this knowledge. I think of it as if you’ve learned a new language, and you’re putting it to practice by taking upper-level courses in that language.” She also notes that the PlusOne program was a fantastic option for her to save on time and money by getting her MS degree in one year instead of two or more. Adamo says that she feels invigorated by the opportunity to take advanced courses during her undergraduate years because they tend to have the biomedical applications that she’s really interested in.
After graduation from Northeastern, Adamo plans to apply to pursue a Doctorate in Physical Therapy. So why the electrical engineering background? Sarah feels strongly that while her path forward may be uncommon, it’s incredibly valuable for her goals. She actually began at Northeastern as a bioengineering student, which allowed her to take courses such as a biomechanics class in which she had what she calls an “aha moment” which led to her switching to the electrical engineering major. She says, “There was a test question that involved modeling the elbow joint as a hinge joint, and what the dynamics are for loading that joint if someone is holding groceries, for example, and I just realized I wanted to learn more about the background, foundational concepts in this specific area.”
Adamo highlights that an interest of hers has been electricity in the body, so some of her favorite classes so far at the undergraduate level have been geared toward the signal processing side as those have exciting biological implications. She specifically mentions ‘Circuits and Signals,’ a class in which the final project was to build an electrocardiogram—a clinical tool that is used to check for different heart pathologies by recording the electrical signals of the heart. Adamo elaborates, “It was special because it’s great to know the math and all the nitty-gritty details behind things, but then it truly all comes together when you have the opportunity to see large-scale applications to the body; that’s when I get super excited.” She also makes note that this class was important to her because of the professor, Iman Salama, whose teaching style she enjoyed so much that she went on to take two of her other classes. “I think it’s really great as a woman in engineering to have a female professor right off the bat when you get into the department, it’s really powerful,” she shares. “It’s really interesting being a woman in STEM sometimes…usually you’re the only girl in your breakout room or your lab group, so it’s so beneficial to have a professor take you under their wing and make sure that you’re staying on track and staying interested in engineering.”
Adamo’s interest in combining her engineering knowledge with her interest in biomedical recovery has been something that she has had on the forefront of the mind for a long while. She was a ballet dancer when she was younger, but her time dancing ended with reconstruction surgery of her right foot followed by three years of physical therapy. This gave her an intimate understanding of what goes into the recovery process, both mentally and physically, as well as the compassion to execute this kind of care. This, and the desire to work as part of a smaller team, led her to a co-op at the INSPIRE Lab at Spaulding Hospital Cambridge and Harvard Medical School. The lab is a clinical research lab that deals with current clinical trials and Adamo admits that this was a new experience for her as the research is conducted on human patients, as opposed to her previous research opportunities. Dealing with these patients with spinal cord injuries was such an impactful position for her. “You build a relationship with them over the course of the study, and just seeing them gain some of their function back led to really powerful moments,” Adamo says. “Sometimes you just get home from work and you just cry, you just really feel like what you’re doing is making a difference in someone’s life. It definitely cemented to me that I want to go to physical therapy school.”
Adamo also puts her passion for sports medicine to work on campus, as a personal trainer for the Marino Center. She started out as a Barre instructor when she first started at Northeastern in the fall 2018 and has recently gotten her personal training certification. She loves teaching classes, meeting new people, and being part of campus life in this way. In addition, Adamo is a member of Northeastern’s chapter of Phi Sigma Rho, a social sorority for women in engineering. She says, “It’s a great way to meet others and to talk about topics like imposter syndrome, which I think is very prevalent among women in engineering. We can also share resources… everyone’s taken random classes or gone on random co-ops, so there’s always someone to talk to about it.”
Adamo believes that the STEM field, in particular, is growing rapidly, and thus, there are many niches in which you can find your specific interest—even if it isn’t the most traditional path. “When I came to college, I realized that what I wanted to do was a bit different,” she says, “but don’t be afraid to change what you’re doing so you can be working towards a goal you love.”