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 afford them.
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 University.
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 both areas.
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 majors.
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.”