Bioengineer testifies on curiosity rebirth

Joshua Vissers/Daily Mining Gazette Now a bioengineering lecturer, Michigan Technological University alumnus Ben Almquist told students Wednesday that his experience at Tech revived the curiosity he had as a young child.

HOUGHTON — Five accomplished alumni of Michigan Technological University (MTU), who all have graduated from the institution in the last 15 years, returned to the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday afternoon to tell students about their paths to success. MTU’s inaugural Five Under 35 event has been more than two years in the making, according to moderator and MTU vice president of student affairs Les Cook.

“It’s a good insight on what’s possible,” Jon Pyles, a senior in the systems engineering program, said.

Ben Almquist was the first speaker of the evening. Almquist graduated from MTU’s Materials Science and Engineering program in 2004.

“Michigan Tech made me a baby,” he said.

He continued to say that he didn’t cry a lot, but his work at MTU made him curious again.

Joshua Vissers/Daily Mining Gazette Michigan Technological University alumni (left to right) David Vennie, Amy Storer, Sarah Carlson, Kevin Moran and Ben Almquist at the end of Five Under 35, where they each spoke about how Michigan Tech contributed to their careers.

“We’re all born with it, but it doesn’t always stick around,” Almquist said.

He also said that his curiosity was tenacious, helping him fight through many of the rejections he faced as he continued through his education, from grants he was not approved for to papers that weren’t accepted for publishing. Almquist earned his master’s and doctorate at Stanford University and worked at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). While doing a fellowship with the Stanford Center for Probing the Nanoscale, he developed an approach for integrating inorganic nanostructures with organic cell membranes.

Now Almquist is a lecturer in bioengineering at the Imperial College in London. He said his time at MTU provided the platform to build his career on.

“It provides the experience to know an ambitious and creative idea from a dead end,” he said.

He said that it is important students also work toward building mental health, and that MTU has built a supportive family out of its faculty and staff that support students beyond graduation.

COMING NEXT: Another one of the Five Under 35 offers a different perspective to Tech students.