Photo of Pareen Mhatre

"Being able to film experiments or interviews in-person, take the footage, and put it all together is an extremely fulfilling experience."

Hometown: Iowa City, Iowa

Year: Third-year undergraduate student

Program: Biomedical Engineering

Mission AreasBiotechnology

Lab: BioMOST Lab

Advisor: Suresh Raghavan, Professor of Biomedical Engineering

What brought you to the Iowa Technology Institute?

In my free time, I always enjoyed picking up my camera, whether that be while I'm traveling, taking portraits, or filming. To me, it was an art form I could use to express myself, and it made me feel at peace. Before coming to college, I was on my high school news staff, and that was an experience that I absolutely loved every second of. One of my professors, who knows about my interest in photography and videography, told me about the opening at ITI. 

What are your goals for the future? What do you hope to be doing professionally in 10 years? 

Aside from using my camera, I have thoroughly enjoyed my academic career at the University of Iowa. My courses in biomedical engineering have made me realize that I would like to contribute to the development of cardiac medical devices, while making them accessible and equitable for all communities. 

Can you give some background about how your interest in the STEM fields first began and evolved, how you became involved in undergraduate research, and what sort of research you currently complete?

The experience of growing up on this campus, while my parents were first students, then employees, included regular visits to UIHC. Like any child, I was initially intimidated, but I soon became fascinated with the field of medicine and the technology that came with it. In addition to this, my family also has a history of heart disease, so the mechanisms of the human heart and how it works also sparked an interest for me. 

I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to volunteer at Dr. Raghavan's lab, the BioMOST lab. I am interested in learning more about the biomechanics of the human heart, as well as various aspects and properties of tissues to (hopefully) help design medical devices in the future after the completion of my education. I'm currently working on a project where I'm studying the viscosity of healthy blood, and in the future, I'd like to compare that to the blood of COVID-19 patients. The end goal is to help develop a protocol for this for UIHC. 

How has your status as a Documented Dreamer impacted your plans for pursuing a career in your field? What, in your opinion, needs to be done to ensure that you and others in similar situations are treated fairly in the immigration process? 

My status as a Documented Dreamer has prohibited me from obtaining internships. While I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to volunteer at the BioMOST lab here at the University of Iowa, I have been unable to branch out and intern in the industry. In other words, I have been unable to gain professional experience crucial for my field. Like other Documented Dreamers, I only wish to give back to my community. However, it is difficult to do so, since those in my situation are not able to apply for internships. This has put me behind compared to my peers, and it has made the American Dream seemingly unattainable at this time. In order to ensure that Documented Dreamers are treated fairly in the immigration process, members of Improve the Dream such as myself advocate for a number of changes that can be implemented by Congress. For example, freezing the age of children for when our parents' employers file for permanent residency, get work authorization at an early age, and overall, create a safe pathway for citizenship for Documented Dreamers similar to the proposed DACA immigration bill. 

How did you become involved with Improve the Dream? What have you learned through working with them?

About seven months ago, both my mother and my cousin, another Documented Dreamer, sent me the link to the organization website. I filled out the form, essentially explaining my story and that I wanted to become involved with the cause.

In the past six months, I have learned so much. Aside from testifying in front of a congressional committee, I've been fortunate to be included in meetings with staff of Senate and House legislators, help write content for Improve the Dream's advocacy efforts, and get my story across to those who are willing to listen. Something I've learned through advocacy is that no issue is black and white. I've always been passionate about social issues, but up until now, I have had very little experience working with legislators. Like any other engineer, I want to help solve problems, whether it's in the form of advocacy or designing medical devices in my field.