Alumni Interviews — Meaghan Bond (’10)

With each year that passes there are more and more BIC graduates doing great work all over the world. Each spring we publish brief “Alumni Updates” where our alumni can tell us some about their post-BIC lives. In addition to these annual updates, we post interviews with our alumni. Today we are excited to post an interview with Meaghan Bond (’10). We hope you enjoy, and if you are interested in being interviewed for a future blog post, email us at BIC@baylor.edu.

What year did you graduate from Baylor? What did you study?

I graduated in 2010 with a BS in Mathematics and Biology. I was in the BIC and Honors programs.

What has been your journey since graduating from Baylor? What are you doing currently for work/career?

I started a PhD in Bioengineering at Rice University directly after graduating from Baylor. It was a tough transition since I hadn’t done much bench research or engineering at Baylor and left a lot of friends behind in Waco, but I hit my stride about a year into graduate school.

My advisor is Rebecca Richards-Kortum, and our lab focuses on low-cost medical diagnostics for the developing world. For my PhD, I developed a lower cost way to measure hemoglobin to diagnose anemia, acquiring skills such as phlebotomy, spectroscopy, mechanical, optical, and electrical design, microcontroller programming, data analysis, and more. I also developed a lateral flow strip to diagnose sickle cell anemia. During the course of this research, I discovered that successive drops of blood coming from a fingerprick can have dramatically different hematological parameters. This simple study got a lot of attention!

I finished my PhD in 2016. My husband and I decided to stay in Houston, and I’ve gotten to stay on in my lab as a post-doc. I am completing research on the hemoglobin project, teaching several classes, mentoring younger students and keeping lab equipment running, and working on various projects for the Rice 360 Institute for Global Health.

What do you enjoy most about your work–or what is something you are currently excited about in your work?

It’s been an exciting couple of years in the Rice 360° Institute for Global Health! We recently competed as NEST 360° in the MacArthur Foundation’s 100andChange program, which offered $100 million to one organization to solve a global problem.

NEST 360° is an international group of researchers, engineers, doctors, and business leaders, led by Rice, seeking to solve the problem of newborn death in Africa, where 1 million babies die each year. Almost all of these deaths could be prevented with simple technology that has been available in the US for 50 years: tech that keeps babies warm, shines blue light to treat jaundice, or helps them breathe.

Rice 360° and other organizations have been building a suite of technologies needed in nurseries that can also withstand the difficulties of the African environment: dust, heat, humidity, and power outages.

NEST 360° will optimize and scale a package of these “newborn essential solutions and technologies” (NEST), train health care workers to use NEST, and create a distribution network to provide NEST continent-wide. We’ll also work with African technicians and engineers to ensure that the technology is maintained and that new technology is being invented by the people who understand the need the best. Within 10 years, we could reduce newborn death rates by 50% at a cost of only $1.48 per birth!

While we were among the four finalists for the 100andChange award, we were not selected to win the $100 million. We’re thankful to have received a $15 million prize from MacArthur, and we’re currently working on the best way to fund and implement our ambitious and much-needed plan.

I have enjoyed working on a few of the technologies in the NEST package, and in helping write the grant I got to work with people who are literally the best in their fields from all over the world. It was especially poignant for me to work on the final stage of the competition during Advent: working to save newborn lives while we awaited the coming of God as a newborn.

What are your goals for the future?

Like many on the NEST team, I plan to dedicate my career to making this needed change happen. I hope to do that by continuing to teach and research at Rice in a non-tenure track position.

How has your BIC education influenced your life and/or work since leaving Baylor?

Well, BIC and Ancient Greek gave me the skills to justify to my husband keeping 4 different copies of Homer’s Odyssey!

But seriously, I’ve loved the broad background BIC gave me – history, philosophy, religions, art, architecture, literature – and of course the skills of deep thinking and clear writing. Reading the Epic of Gilgamesh has not helped me repair the hematology analyzer in lab, but I know BIC has enriched my life.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time in BIC?

One of my funniest memories came from serving as a PI for World Cultures I. Many of us remember how Dr. Hanks would single you out in large group to answer a question, often by the color of your shirt if he didn’t know your name. On the last large group of the semester, the entire BIC class wore their yellow BIC T-shirts, and we all laughed as Dr. Hanks struggled to single anyone out. One of my students arrived late, without his T-shirt, and hid behind the back row of seats so as not to be seen.

Is there something you learned in BIC that still sticks with you today?

I may be mixing a couple of stories, but the point still stands. There was one paper in World of Rhetoric for which Dr. Corey kept extending the deadline. It seemed like every time the paper was due, he would change it to a rough draft and push the “real” due date back a week. I think I re-wrote that paper 5 times! It reinforced the value of working and re-working and re-working a project until it was perfect, which was good preparation for the 6-year-long project of graduate school. I was so proud of the grade at the end!

The other strong memory is a day in Dr. Whitlark’s religion class. We talked about types of covenants in the ancient near east – those that required something from both parties, and those where one party promised something to another. Dr. Whitlark took us through the different covenants God made in the Old Testament – with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David. The Mosaic covenant was the only one that required something of the people, and it was the only one that was broken.

Jesus came to fulfill the old covenants and give us a new one. And, as Ezekiel previews, this time God will make us able to uphold the covenant: “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

This lecture came at an important moment in my spiritual life and has stayed with me ever since.

Do you have any advice for current BIC students?

You don’t have to have it all figured out. The major you pick your freshman year doesn’t have to be your major forever (I thought I was going to be a veterinarian). The major you graduate with doesn’t have to determine your career or the field of your graduate school.

Baylor, and especially the BIC program, is a wonderful place to study deeply in many different fields. Drink deep and grow in your faith. Learn some philosophy, some history, some math, some coding. Learn to think, to write, and to speak. No matter what your eventual career is, your life will be enriched by what you have chosen to study here.

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