College of Engineering News Room
Alexandria Brady-Miné Wants to Build a Better World
While many mechanical engineering students look forward to professional careers building structures like bridges and buildings, Alexandria Brady-Miné has in mind something on a larger scale.
“We can all play a role in building a better world,” she says.
Brady-Miné’s vision of such a collaborative effort has led the junior to establishing an acclaimed global nonprofit, the Human Projects, and recently recognition as a 2022 Goldwater Scholar. This scholarship is the most prestigious undergraduate award in the country for scientific research. The award was established by Congress in 1986 to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. Brady-Miné was selected out of nearly 1,300 students nationally who were nominated through a highly selective process.
She also received the prestigious National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in 2021. She has been selected for the 2022 MIT Summer Research Program where she will spend the summer researching in the Harvard-MIT Biomedical Engineering Center.
Brady-Miné began her research career as a junior in high school where she studied a 3D bioprinting method with future applications in 3D printing complex structures such as tissues and organs. She joined Dr. Nathan Gallant’s Cellular Mechanotransduction and Biomaterials Laboratory in the College of Engineering during her freshman year where she leads a project focused on developing a method to improve and control cell adhesion strength to Poly-N-isopropylacrylamide (pNIPAAm), a commonly used “smart” polymer. Smart polymers, such as thermo-responsive pNIPAAm, are used in applications including the development of artificial muscles, improved surgical mesh materials and ecologically-friendly biodegradable packaging.
Her interest in applying engineering to developing biomaterials extends to her earliest interest in a STEM career.
“While exploring solutions to a human rights issue, organ trafficking, I came across a potential solution focused on 3D printing organs,” she says. “I became more interested in engineering and its potential to solve human rights issues. After reaching out to a university lab working on 3D bioprinting, I was able to tour the lab and was invited to join as a student researcher. During my time in this lab, I discovered that the things that I loved about the nonprofit world: problem solving, constant challenges, leadership, and the passion of the people around me, were common to the research world as well.”
Exercising leadership in problem-solving is a role that Brady-Miné is familiar with, having created Rainbow Readers to bring books to underserved children while in elementary school and establishing an international nonprofit, The Human Projects, while attending high school. The Human Projects is a global nonprofit working through an international network of schools, clubs, nonprofits, and volunteers to build and rapidly scale human rights educational programs that empower young people to make a difference. Brady-Miné has received several awards for her nonprofit work including the Jane Goodall Institute’s Fund II Fellowship and the National Liberty Museum’s Young Hero Award.
She says making the connection between technology and social change enabled her to view engineering as a way to acquire a new set of tools to achieve her goals.
“I realized that by combining my nonprofit leadership experience and love of STEM research, I could help solve global issues.”
Attending a university that would provide the tools and support to engage in meaningful research was a priority for Brady-Miné after graduating from Buchholz High School in Gainesville and she says the University of South Florida has been a good match for her goals.
“Participating in research in the College of Engineering has been one of the most important aspects of my college experience. Through interdisciplinary research, I have expanded my knowledge of mechanical, biomedical, and chemical engineering. I have had the opportunity to take on leadership roles and give oral presentations and poster presentations at national and international conferences. My time in the College of Engineering has helped me grow as a researcher, prepare for graduate school, and develop a career where I can use engineering to help others. I deeply appreciate the mentorship and support that I have received from the college.”
Incorporating engineering with her activism is something she is actively engaged in, particularly by using engineering principles to expand her nonprofit’s impact.
“Engineering has so many applications in creating positive change,” she says. “From applying existing engineering technologies in new ways to developing innovative technologies, engineering plays a key role in solving the global issues we face today.”
Brady-Miné adds that she is focusing on growing the pool of young people with an interest in engineering as a change agent as well as a rewarding career. “The Human Projects just launched a new program called STEM for Human Rights focused on helping to build the next generation of diverse, globally aware leaders in STEM.”
After receiving her BSME, Brady-Miné says she plans to pursue a doctoral degree and continue applying engineering to create social change. You can learn more about her work by visiting The Human Projects and STEM for Human Rights.