Leaving high school, Sukanya Vallon frequently passed a
veteran who was trying to raise money for a prosthetic leg. Others may have
passed him by, but Suki didn’t; she frequently gave him a few dollars. On one
bitterly cold day, she took him for a cup of coffee and struck up a
conversation, learning how prosthetics can change lives – if people could
That cup of coffee helped shape a vision of her future as a
prosthetic engineer, where she will design devices that restore function and
quality of life.
“I used to be a dancer for 15 years, and I had to decide if
I wanted to pursue that or do STEM. I chose STEM. I could help people in
something I know I’m good at,” explained the Brooklyn native. “Not many people
think of prosthetics for a living, but someone has to make them. I want to be a
part of that small group of people.”
There are only a few biomedical students in SUNY Broome’s
challenging Engineering Science program, but Suki Vallon considers the
program’s diversity an asset.
“It’s cool meeting a lot of people going into so many
different aspects of engineering. One of my classmates is interested in working
on cars and he wants to get a degree in automotive engineering,” she explained.
“I like being one of the outliers because it really makes me stand out. You
don’t need to go into mechanical, electrical or computer engineering; there are
other forms of engineering out there.”
From BAP to Broome
Suki came to SUNY Broome by way of the Binghamton
Advantage Program, a joint admission program with Binghamton
BAP, however, didn’t give her the opportunity to take the
engineering courses she wanted. Enrolling in SUNY Broome directly gave her more
options – including the option of having a dual major in Engineering Science
and Health Studies. Having a health sciences background makes sense for a
future biomedical engineer, and she is looking for transfer schools strong in
Binghamton University is still an option, and Suki fell in
love with Clarkson University during a visit there. Her dream school, however,
is Cornell University. She still has some time to decide – another year at SUNY
Broome, and a chance to build more of a foundation in her niche field with
courses in anatomy, physiology and organic chemistry.
“It’s tough but not impossible,” she said of her dual
Professors who made an impact include Robert Lofthouse and
Glenn Modrak in engineering science, and Dr. Tracy Curtis and Professor Diane
Kelly in biology.
“Professor Kelly – I love her. She expects a lot out of you,
but she makes anatomy so fun to learn about,” Suki said. “And Professor Modrak
– he’s really cool. He’s hilarious! He punched a wall to show how every force
has an equal and opposite counter-reaction.”
A Hornet love story
Outside of the classroom, Suki is involved with the Engineering Club and the Gardening Club. She also has a clean energy internship funded by SUNY Broome’s $1 million Energy to Lead grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
“The goal is to transform campus into a clean
energy learning center. I’m leading the social media part of it to
raise awareness,” she said.
Future green projects will include lesson plans for
youngsters who visit campus. Suki field-tested them on her 9-year-old brother,
a “mini-engineer” who found the lessons in sustainability “super-cool.”
She’s also planning her wedding – to a fellow Hornet she met
in her first biology class on campus. To add to the charm, an actual bee was
involved in this SUNY Broome love story.
At certain points in the semester, you’ll see biology
classes wandering through campus, identifying trees. On one of these classroom
trips, Sukanya was followed by a bee – which turned into the subject of a
debate with a classmate. They ended up going on a date that weekend and
engaging in similar lively debates throughout the course. The rest is history –
or at least it will be, once they walk down the aisle.
Two great majors, an inspiring future and a love story? That’s
a scientific formula for an amazing college experience.
“SUNY Broome allowed me to grow. When I first came to
college, I was extraordinarily shy,” Suki said. “In engineering science, if you
have an idea, you speak up. If you have a question, you speak up.”