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You Can Just Change the World!

May 2023

Michelle Arias develops carbon nanotubes for use in medical devices at an engineering lab at BYU.

Michelle Arias’s father hails from Peru and came to BYU to study manufacturing engineering. As a student, he worked on the electric blue streamliner that set a land speed record of 155.8 miles per hour on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

“That inspired me so much,” Arias says. “I thought, ‘Wow—you could just change the world!’”

As Arias was growing up in Provo, her parents encouraged her to study hard: “Math will take you anywhere, hijita [little daughter],” they told her. And although Arias thought about pursuing a career in medicine, she ultimately found herself following in her father’s footsteps at the BYU Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering.

“I started researching as soon as I stepped foot into BYU,” she says. “I first started with mentored research through Women in Engineering. I began with vibrational engineering science with a vibrating and heating brace and a vibrating bed to help those with insomnia. Then I switched over to biomedical engineering, where I learned how to grow carbon nanotubes for medical implants.”

Arias became involved with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and received funding to attend a prestigious convention. Later, Arias was invited to publish an academic paper on her nanotube research for the Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research.

Arias’s paper discusses how carbon nanotubes are among the strongest materials on the planet and are also resistant to bacteria—making them an ideal material for implants. Arias’s paper also shares a superior method for “growing” carbon nanotubes.

“Donations help fund our research,” she says. “They’ve helped me as I write the paper and gather materials. I’m going to be the lead author on an academic paper at 20 years old. I’ve gotten so much support here; it’s a very collaborative environment.”

Now she’s seeing possibilities for the future that she’d never considered before. “The convention I attended resulted in two internship offers, so I’m going to go work with General Electric,” she says. “I have always wanted to be a doctor, but I think it would be very cool to work on medical devices—the tools doctors use. Or I might still become a doctor.”

Regardless of where her career takes her, Arias is grateful for the generosity of those who have helped her along the way. “Giving is truly the most Christlike act anyone could ever perform for another,” she says. “I see the generosity of donors as a miracle and a message from my Heavenly Father, and I hope that later in my lifetime I can help someone else in the same way.”

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