Sanjeet Rangarajan is a graduate of Vanderbilt University with a Bachelor’s degree in BioMedical Engineering.
Sanjeet’s undergraduate experience is an upbeat story about a young man who enjoyed academics, extracurricular initiatives and nurtured friendships.
He found his niche, broadly in engineering and specifically BioMedical Engineering. His deep dive into Tissue Engineering demonstrated his interest and proficiency in this area. He took the initiative to help start Model UN at Vanderbilt.
Hi-Fives from the Podcast are:
Episode Title: Sanjeet Rangarajan on Vanderbilt: BioMedical Engineering, Starting Model UN, and Snowball Fights.
Episode summary introduction: Sanjeet grew up in the Detroit area loving math, science and engineering. When time came to choose a college, he was drawn to Vanderbilt because the medical school was also on campus.
Sanjeet Rangarajan is a graduate of Vanderbilt University with a Bachelor’s degree in BioMedical Engineering.
In particular, we discuss the following with him:
Topics discussed in this episode:
Our Guest: Sanjeet Rangarajan is a graduate of Vanderbilt University with a Bachelor’s degree in BioMedical Engineering and a Master’s degree in BioMedical Engineering. Sanjeet then earned his MD in Medicine from Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. Sanjeet now serves on the faculty of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center as Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology and Neurosurgery.
Memorable Quote: “I think everybody creates their own path, there's no wrong path, there's no wrong University.”
Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode’s Transcript.
Transcript of the episode’s audio.
In my sophomore year where it snowed on campus and you know the entire campus was was coated in, you know a couple inches of snow and a massive, you know, campus wide snowball fight broke out and, and and it was just one of those moments that you thought of you know, okay we're just all one community It was really fun. You know you were throwing snowballs at people you had no idea they were.
Sanjeet Rangarajan is a graduate of Vanderbilt University with a Bachelor’s degree in BioMedical Engineering.
Sanjeet grew up in the Detroit area loving math and science specifically Biology. He also developed a love for engineering while participating in robotics competitions.
When time came to choose a college, he was drawn to Vanderbilt because the med school was also on campus.
Somewhere at the back of his mind, he felt some interest in pursuing medicine after undergrad.
Sanjeet picked BioMedical Engineering as his major, and he ran with it.
To tell us all about it, Sanjeet joins us on our podcast today and share his Vanderbilt story.
Before we jump into the podcast, here are the High-Fives, Five Highlights from the podcast:
[The Vanderbilt Experience]
Graduated in 2005, with a bachelor's in biomedical engineering, and then I actually stayed for two more additional years and earned my master's degree there. So I have a little bit of a perspective of both the undergraduate and the graduate school experience.
So, that's how Vanderbilt came on the radar. But you know, it really took a visiting campus. You know, first of all, I had never been to Nashville, Tennessee before and, and just being on campus, you know, just gave you the feeling that Vanderbilt was a strong community. I did, I did like that there was a medical center connected to campus because I was, you know, had some initial interest in the biomedical sciences.
So I did develop a connection with certain professors, certainly, that was part of my decision to actually stay for a graduate degree. You know, I developed an interest in Tissue Engineering, and there was a professor who had similar research interests. And so that unit transitioned into, you know, an extension that my time, of my time at Vanderbilt.
[Vibrant Campus Life]
Another So, you know, again, Model UN is a great example of that it was something I was involved with in high school, I enjoyed, I wanted to be part of that, you know, in college, I wanted to offer, you know, that experience to, you know, high school students in the Nashville, Tennessee area. And so, you know, we just approached the chancellor, who at the time was Gordon Gee, who's now the president at the University of Western Viginia. And, and we just went to him and said, Hey, we want to, we want to start this, and this is what we think is in it for the university. And so they gave us money to do it. And, you know, that that organization, I think, you know, still exists today.
[Advice to Aspiring Students]
You know, everybody creates their own path. There's no wrong path. There's no wrong University. And, you know, even though Vanderbilt was an amazing place, and it was a great place for me, and I'm so thankful, I got to go there. If I didn't get into Vanderbilt, and I, you know, gone somewhere else, I think, you know, you can make your own opportunities and you can, you can make things work for you. So, I think everybody has that power, and it's important to remember that.
Venkat Raman 4:12
Now, I'm sure you want to hear the entire podcast with Sanjeet. So without further ado, over to Sanjeet Rangarajan!
.Venkat Raman 4:21
First of all, let me welcome you to our podcast college matters or matters. Thank you so much for making the time on a Saturday. Yeah,
Yeah, Of course not happy to, happy to talk about Vanderbilt.
Venkat Raman 4:35
Of course. As I was telling you the other day, we are catering to an audience of international students who are hopefully looking to find a school somewhere in the US or maybe maybe around the world.
And I think these kind of podcasts are beneficial from a point of view of, you know, sharing some experiences about college, what it means to be there, how you get there. And what happens after that. So looking forward to this conversation.
Very well. So maybe the best place to start is maybe give us some overall impressions of Vanderbilt, your undergraduate experience there. I know, it's been a few years. But nonetheless, I'm sure those memories are pretty vivid.
Yeah, of course. So I started at Vanderbilt in 2001, which was 20 years ago now. So it was quite a long time. And I graduated in 2005, with a bachelor's in biomedical engineering, and then I actually stayed for two more additional years and earned my master's degree there. So I have a little bit of a perspective of both the undergraduate and the graduate school experience and how those, you know, are somewhat related.
And so, you know, Vanderbilt at the time was just starting to emerge on the national and international stage. You know, throughout the ‘90s, Vanderbilt was best known as a private medium sized school in the south, that had a high proportion of undergraduate students from the United States, from the southeastern United States, specifically.
And around, you know, 1999/2000, when I was starting to look at colleges, Vanderbilt was one of the few that stuck out to me, because I was looking for a medium sized institution. So, you know, I knew I didn't, I didn't think that a private small liberal arts school would be for me.
And likewise, you know, I grew up in metropolitan Detroit, where the University of Michigan which is, you know, large public, you know, undergraduate, graduate, and professional school was just 45 minutes away. And so I was familiar with a large institution as well, and didn't quite think that would be for me, either.
So, Vanderbilt is on a, you know, somewhat short list of competitive institutions of a medium size that has both, you know, undergraduate graduate professional schools, and it was in a big city. And so those are some of the things I was looking for. And there's a couple of schools that meet that criteria. So that's how Vanderbilt, you know, got my attention.
And, and I think, you know, some of the initial interest was cemented by early trips to campus and the United States, it's, you know, well, in the pre-pandemic times, it would be customary to, you know, go on college visits.
And I think, you know, that's one of the great things about this podcast, in some ways it's putting together for is in memories that, you know, maybe able to recreate some of that when we're in a time when travel is not easy, but visiting campus and, you know, getting to know students and faculty, and just understanding what it felt like to be on campus was one of the things that further cemented that, that early interest.
Venkat Raman 8:18
So, um, you mentioned Vanderbilt. And so I just wanted to know, and plus, you said, you had a cluster of colleges that you were looking at, in high school. How did you end up picking Vanderbilt?
Great, so yeah, so like, you know, I, like I said, I grew up in metropolitan Detroit. So it's in the Midwest. And so, you know, we're lucky to have several public and private institutions that generate a lot of interest amongst high school students. And my initial interest was actually in Northwestern University, which was a, again, medium sized school, close to a big, big city with, you know, about less than 10,000 undergraduates with undergraduate graduate and professional schools.
And so my initial interest was there. And it was only in the course of researching Northwestern that schools like Vanderbilt, and Carnegie Mellon, and, you know, Case Western, and some of these other kind of medium sized schools that were not as quite as big as the, you know, large public institutions. So, that's how Vanderbilt came on the radar.
But, you know, it really took a visiting campus. You know, first of all, I had never been to Nashville, Tennessee before and, and, and just being on campus, you know, just gave you the feeling that Vanderbilt was a strong community. I did, I did like that there was a medical center connected to campus because I was, you know, had some initial interest in the biomedical sciences as a high school student and so you know, compared with Northwestern where The you know, medical school is downtown Chicago versus in, you know, where the undergraduate is in suburban Evanston, Illinois, you know, Vanderbilt had everything on one kind of, you know, set of city blocks just right in the middle of a, you know, large American city. And it really was a feeling that I got.
Obviously, you know, the campus is beautiful, it's a National Arboretum, and you don't quite appreciate these things as a high school student, or maybe there's a lucky few that will, but I certainly didn't. But it all kind of translated into this, just feeling that, you know, this is a[n] institution that has a tight knit community, but also has the advantages and the global reach of a large, you know, powerful research institution.
And so, and that was something that I felt like, was fairly, fairly unique. And so it was only after I visited Vanderbilt.
The recruitment process at Vanderbilt is also, you know, very, very inclusive, they get you excited about the school, I think, you know, 20 years later, we're in an era where, you know, we have easy access to the web, and social media and YouTube. And so I think high school students are able to get an even more, you know, colorful and complete perspective of, you know, wherever they're looking to go to college, but in those early days, if we can call them that, yeah, you know, Vanderbilt was very effective at showing its strength as a, you know, strong community. And so that was one of the things that zeroed in. And, you know, some of the college visits cemented that.
I'll also add that Vanderbilt, despite being a very wealthy institution is very, was and continues to be very generous with respect to financial aid and scholarship opportunities. You know, I think that private institutions in the United States have really done a much better job over the last 20 years in making sure that college is affordable for those who can't afford it. I think that's really important.
And, you know, Vanderbilt was quite effective, you know, at that even in 2001. So.
Venkat Raman 12:13
Now, let's talk a little bit about your high school interests. You mentioned some early interest in biomedical. Give us a picture of what you were as a high schooler with interest, what kind of interests did you have? Yeah, so,
Yeah so, you know, in high school, I had an natural interest, I think in you know, math and science, I think, you know, I went to a private, independent, High School in Metro Detroit and, and my high school was really, again, very effective at encouraging its students to, you know, be interested in, you know, whatever it may be, whether it was the arts, or science or engineering, and so, I was able to explore some early, you know, interests, you know, certainly biology through classes, but I also developed an early interest in engineering as well and was involved in a academic robotics competition, and, you know, some things like that I also was part of the Model United Nations as a high school student, which actually, you know, the travel that comes with that traveling to other, you know, colleges and universities as a high school student to compete in these Model United Nations competitions.
You get early, again, exposure to you know, other universities, and you get to learn about things like that. I was also part of the tennis team, in my high school, and, you know, it was quite involved with that.
But yeah, I think I was a pretty typical, I think, Well, hopefully, well rounded high school students.
Venkat Raman 13:51
No sound sounds like it sounds like it.
Venkat Raman 13:57
Let's sort of move forward then.
So you decide to go to Vanderbilt, and how is that transition from high school to college, from Detroit to Nashville? So how did, how did all that shape up?
You know, I think overall pretty well, I think, you know.
I grew up, you know, again, you know, I spent most of my life in Detroit until I moved away to college. And so I think for anyone who's, you know, moving away from home, whether it's 45 minutes away, or eight hours away, or, you know, half the global way, there's a certain amount of adjustment and you know, developing new understandings that come with that and but I think Vanderbilt made it really easy.
You know, certainly some of the specifics have changed but you know, back then you were matched with an upper class mentor who would, you know, kind of check in with you in the, you know, first couple of weeks of college. They're, the school puts together a huge university wide effort that a move crew, so to speak, called VUcept.
You know, you have all these upperclassmen and faculty helping, you know, you literally move boxes from your car to, you know, you're in your dorm room, and it's really an all hands on deck kind of, kind of enterprise and, and you feel very welcomed.
And I remember, you know, our first week of college orientation was really spent on you know, welcoming everyone to Vanderbilt welcoming everyone to Nashville, you know, one of the storied institutions in Nashville, Grand Ole Opry, which is, you know, some people call it the birthplace of country music. And they took us to the Grand Ole Opry and several, you know, pretty famous Grand Ole Opry, singers and artists came and played for us. And it was a really cool introduction to a city that, you know, honestly, I didn't know that much about. And I would argue that I don't think most of the country in the world knew as much about Nashville at that time, unless you were very into country music.
It was only after the television show Nashville, and a lot of the real estate and business development that took place in the city, you know, in the later, you know, 2007/2008, where, you know, it was really on the map. So when I first arrived, I didn't know much about Nashville. And I think Vanderbilt did a great job of kind of introducing us to the city.
But, but I lived in a I lived in a dorm, which actually no longer exists, it was demolished several years ago and replaced with some very beautiful residential colleges, which we could talk about.
But I lived in a dorm that was all single dorms, actually. So you know, no roommates in my dorm, which, you know, many people think of colleges, you know, that's the first time you live with somebody else. And that's almost a rite of passage. And so initially, I had some concerns about oh, well, I'm going to be in a room with all singles, single dorms, is it going to be, you know, antisocial? Am I gonna have trouble making friends, you know, like, and that apprehension went away immediately.
Because it was, it was amazing. It was, you know, even though everyone had their own room, it was a really everybody's door open kind of place. You know, it was very easy to get to know, people and make good friends. In fact, my next door, the person who lived right next door to me, literally on the other side of the wall, became one of my closest friends, and I'm actually gonna hang out with him tomorrow.
And so, you know, that was 20 years ago. And so I was able to make, you know, really good friends. And I found that, you know, Vanderbilt really tried to create a welcoming environment, no matter where anybody was coming from, whether it was the United States, or whether it was from abroad. And you know, whether or not someone you know, you know, spoke English very well, or, you know, had had experience in the United States.
I mean, it was a very welcoming place. And that was apparent very early on to me.
Venkat Raman 18:08
How was the academic transition? Did you feel well prepared for the program there?
So I think, you know, Vanderbilt, like most universities does a certain amount of, kind of work on placement early on, you know, so, you know, they take your high school transcript and, you know, look at your, you know, AP courses, and, you know, while AP credit doesn't necessarily count towards, you know, graduation credit these days, they would place you in appropriate classes based on your previous experience, and you have an academic advisor, early on.
Back then, you were placed into an advising system based on a major of your selection. So mine was biomedical engineering, and, but you could change advisors, change majors, I mean, all of that was, you know, quite easy. So you had an academic advisor.
You know, it's certainly a little bit different when you show up to classes that might have you know, 100 person 100 people and then 200 people, and then like a large chemistry lecture, you know, that sort of thing, very different from the independent high school where the class size was maybe, you know, 15 to 20, at the most.
With that said, I felt that even at that time, there were plenty of resources. You know, certainly upperclassmen were helpful, advising could be helpful, but, you know, we also helped each other and figured things out together, because everybody that's a freshman in high school is somewhat in the same boat.
You know, some may have more experience or, you know, more skills in a certain area, but everybody's trying to figure out how to move from, you know, the high school model where you're in class every every day from, you know, maybe nine to 330 to a system where you maybe only in a single class, you know, one three times a week And, you know, how do you? How do you manage the rest of your day? Right? It seems like there's a lot of free time. And so there's resources that are available.
I found the transition to be, you know, pretty easy. I think my, my high school was fairly rigorous and competitive. And so I didn't, I didn't, I don't feel like I felt lost at the time. But, but the resources were there in case, in case they were needed.
Venkat Raman 20:29
What did you think of your peers and classmates? You, you mentioned A great friendship next door. How would the rest of the gang?
Yeah, so, you know, people, especially, you know, I got to know, my biomedical engineering classmates very well, you know, because we were together for four years. And many of them I still keep in touch with, I found Vanderbilt to be an environment that was, you know, competitive in the sense of everybody wanted to do to do well, everyone came from a, you know, fairly high achieving background, you know, people had, you know, plans, or at least plans that they, you know, even if they change later on, people thought that they wanted to do certain things. And so everybody had a certain amount of focus.
With that said, it was very collaborative environments, and I really do credit Vanderbilt with creating that environment, there was not a lot of emphasis placed on competition with each other. But there was a lot of emphasis placed on working together as a group, particularly in engineering, which, you know, is a field that relies on collaboration and cooperation.
And so I think that, you know, that was the mindset of the faculty, that was the mindset that was, you know, transferred to the students, I think, Vanderbilt’s really, when they are building their class, you know, they are handpicking people who have demonstrated some achievement in service and collaboration. You know, certainly individual achievement is important, I think, you know, to a certain extent, but I think that Vanderbilt as an institution really values people who have shown that desire to be community driven, and, and collaborative.
And so I think that, you know, that that stayed true. And that helped me create great friendships with, you know, my classmates and, you know, certainly I met people through, I played club tennis at Vanderbilt, I was involved in a series of other extracurricular activities.
Again, I rejoined the model, and I actually, I helped start Model United Nations at Vanderbilt, I noticed one of your other podcast guests was someone who participated in that media belt. And I actually was one of the first couple people who started that, that club at Vanderbilt, and that was a, you know, great experience as well.
And, you know, I was involved in a series of other extracurriculars, so I had a kind of a wide group of friends and really felt, you know, there wasn't a single day while I was while I was at Vanderbilt, that wasn't, you know, fun and a learning experience.
Venkat Raman 23:07
What did you think of the professors? Were they approachable etc?
Yeah, I think, you know, I think the interval is probably like, most institutions, in that there, you are going to find that, you know, all the professors are approachable. I never found any that wouldn't be available in office hours, or wouldn't answer emails and things like that.
But naturally, I think every college students, you know, especially as you get further along, you know, as you get towards your junior and senior year, where you're working on more and more specific things, or trying to achieve certain goals, you gravitate towards certain professors who either have shared interests or, you know, kind of a, you know, shared, you know, how do I want to say it, I mean, you just get along with some professors better, you know, you just, you just develop a connection and, and so, I did develop a connection with certain professors, certainly, that was part of my decision to actually stay for a graduate degree.
You know, I developed an interest in Tissue Engineering, and there was a professor who had similar research interests, and so that unit transitioned into, you know, an extension that my time of my time at Vanderbilt, and, but I found the professors to be, you know, passionate about what they were teaching and, you know, I, I certainly had no issues while I was there with any of them.
Venkat Raman 24:42
Let's sort of move over to the campus then. You mentioned your dorm, single dorms. Maybe we can talk a little bit about the campus life activities, organizations. What was that like?
Yeah, sure. So it's a very vibrant campus life.
I'll say that again. At that time, you know, Nashville had not undergone its growth spurt, so to speak. And so I think there was a much larger emphasis and attention placed on campus life, meaning that, you know, we spent, you know, four years and what was called the Vander-bubble, you know, we went outside into the city, some but not nearly as much as students do now, because, you know, Nashville has so much to offer in the way of dining and entertainment and sports and all these other things. And so I think, you know, from a certain perspective, campus life, and Nashville life is even better now than it was then.
But at the time, you know, again, it was a very inclusive campus in that there was something for everybody. And if, if you were looking for something specific, and it didn't exist, the school was very supportive of helping you create that opportunity for yourself and others.
So, you know, again, Model UN is a great example of that it was something I was involved with in high school, I enjoyed, I wanted to be part of that, you know, in college, I wanted to offer, you know, that experience to, you know, high school students in the Nashville, Tennessee area. And so, you know, we just approached the chancellor, who at the time was Gordon Gee, who's now the president at the University of West Virginia. And, and we just went to him and said, Hey, we want to, we want to start this, and this is what we think is in it for the university. And so they gave us money to do it. And, you know, that that organization, I think, you know, still exists today.
And so, but campus life, you know, again, like I said, was very vibrant, and, you know, students are expected to live on campus. So, there's a residential college system. Now, again, this didn't exist when I was there. But, you know, this is modeled after the residential college system that, you know, is, has been at the Ivy League institutions for, for some time now. And so everybody's expected to live on campus. In fact, some of the faculty live on campus in close proximity to the students as well.
So there's this kind of living learning collaborative environment. You know, very, I think, I think, you know, that's generally the direction that most universities are heading in. And so, you know, students eat together on campus, obviously, now, you can travel off campus to eat as well, but tons of clubs, lots of really cool speakers that they would invite to, you know, again, spurned discussion, or, you know, increased discussion among students and faculty.
So we, you know, we had Condoleezza Rice, who came, Al Gore you know, so many different, you know, politicians and speakers and thinkers, and, you know, all sorts of folks. And so, you got the impression that there was always something going on.
And, you know, it wasn't always just academic, I mean, one of the big celebrations or parties on campus is something called Rites of Spring, which was essentially a few day outdoor Music Festival, where, you know, the university would bring in artists, you know, current artists to come and, you know, play a big concert on campus, that was something we looked forward to every spring.
You know, they always made it easy for us to, you know, have easy access to entertainment and, you know, also enrichment of the mind, as well as the fact that there's a Law school, a Business School, a Medical school, a Divinity School, all of these graduate institutions also bring their own set of, you know, speakers and lectures and workshops, and things like that.
So, no matter what anyone's experience, what anyone's interest was, they can always find something going on. And, and likewise, I mean, the social the social life was also you know, great, you know, people who, you know, like to be busy all the time, have a lot of friends, you know, go to parties, all those things, and those are all those, we're all you know, present and available. And, and folks who like to have a smaller group of friends, you know, a more tight knit group, you know, go out to dinner on the weekends, and, you know, that that was also okay, too, and, and plentiful and available as well.
Venkat Raman 29:23
So I thought maybe we can now segue into the summers during those college years, at least your undergraduate years. What kind of things did you do and was, you know, did you have a sort of a plan in mind or were you just sort of going with the flow? So, you know, again, this
So, you know, again, this was my first time living away from home. You know, I'm an only child. I don't have any brothers and sisters. My parents look back up back home. Yes, right. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. Okay, great.
And so I you know, the first couple of years, I was, um, you know, pretty focused on going back to Detroit for the, for the summer. With that said, You know, I think most students find something to do, whether it's you know, academic or a job. And, you know, I chose to get a job over the summer actually. And so again, I was an engineering major. And, you know, my hope was that I could get an, you know, some type of engineering internship for the summer. And if not, I was prepared to, you know, go back to one of my high school jobs I worked, you know, at the mall in retail, and, you know, did a series of odd jobs and those types of things, but I was lucky to get a job at well, the name of the company has undergone several changes, it was Daimler Chrysler, back then, which, you know, is one of the big automotive companies. And now, it's, you know, Stellantis.
But I did an engineering internship there, actually, the summers between my freshman and sophomore year, my sophomore and junior year, and then again, between my junior and senior year, because I found that it was an opportunity to flex my engineering muscle, or what I had learned in school over the previous year, it was certainly, you know, a great way to make a little bit of extra money to help pay for tuition and travel and things like that.
But more than that, I mean, you know, I realized, through my summer jobs working in the automotive industry, that, you know, engineering was much more than the math and the, and the science and the, you know, the problem sets and everything like that.
It was about, again, that collaborative environment of working in teams, and, you know, trying to solve problems. And so, you know, I spent every day as an engineering intern working in, you know, small teams at an automobile company, and, you know, we designed a couple of things and, and it was a great experience.
And, you know, so when I would come back to Vanderbilt, you know, I always felt like I had a little bit, little bit more perspective of what engineering was, like, outside of the classroom as well, that was just my decision, you know, again, it was a way to be at home closer to my family, but also a way to make a little bit of money and learn something.
With that said, there was, you know, plenty of other opportunities that were available that, you know, I chose not to take, and so, you know, some students would, you know, take that opportunity to do a study abroad over the summer, because in engineering school, it's a little bit tougher to do a study abroad semester, sometimes then, you know, in, you know, in arts and sciences major, just because, you know, engineering classes have to be taught in English, typically, in order for them to, you know, for to count for us.
And so, in any case, that was a great opportunity for some to travel abroad, you know, people who were interested in research could stay on campus and, you know, work in a research lab, there were opportunities there. You know, obviously, Nashville has expanded considerably and diversified in the businesses in the industry that are available there.
So, you know, students, even today will get internships locally, as well. And so that's what I did. But, But my, my classmates and my friends did a whole assortment of other things as well.
Venkat Raman 33:18
Venkat Raman 33:22
So that sort of leads me to my next question, obviously, you spent the summers in the automotive industry, but I think your interest and ultimately your major was in biomedical engineering.
So maybe a little bit about how that interest in biomedical happened or where it came from. And, obviously, it's taken you quite far from there.
Sure, so as I mentioned, you know, in high school, I just had a predilection to move towards the biological sciences, despite doing you know, the despite my summer jobs in the automotive industry, I always enjoyed biology and the life sciences.
And, you know, when I arrived at Vanderbilt, like I mentioned, you, you pick a major and so I picked biomedical engineering and many people switch out, but I really, I really enjoyed it. I felt like it was a, you know, quote, current field and that's, you know, a lot of the a lot of the advances and excitement in science has been in the biological sciences and biomedical engineering over the last, you know, 2030 years. And so, you know, I thought it was something that was, you know, current and exciting. And so, you know, that was the, to be honest, the initial interest, there was no aha moment. It was just something that I tried out and, you know, started to really enjoy.
And I took a class in systems physiology at Vanderbilt, which was really one of the first more medical type classes you know, you know, Biomedical Engineering is really an assortment of MC chemical engineering, electrical engineering, it's a lot of things kind of put together. But when I took that systems Physiology course, which is really an understanding of how the body works from an engineering perspective, that's really what cemented my interest in the biomedical sciences.
And so, you know, the automotive industry, again, I think engineering, no matter what type of engineering you do, again, it's, you know, again, like I said, it's those collaborative moments, it's working in teams, you know, things like that, that's, that's what's important, less, you know, so the academic training.
But as I, as I went through my undergraduate years, again, I mean, I took that systems physiology course, and then I started to be worked a little bit more closely with the Medical Center, every student does a senior design project within the biomedical engineering course that as a senior, before you graduate, and so that links engineering students up with, you know, professors, and physicians in the medical center, and together, you know, you try to work to solve a real world problem, you know, create a product over the course of two semesters in your final year.
And that experience, working with a couple of other students and, and a physician, that's what actually started making me think that, you know, maybe, you know, maybe there's a way to continue my interest in engineering, but, you know, in terms of an ultimate career decision, maybe I can start to maybe maybe being a physician would be something that would be better suited to me, because while I really enjoyed the problem solving that came with engineering, what I felt like I lacked was really that connection with whomever was benefiting from those from that work. And from those, you know, products that we would create.
And so, you know, as I became closer with the Medical Center, and being more exposed to patients, and, and, you know, people, that's what started to make me think that maybe I should pursue medical school.
But you know, I did it in a way where I would never really lose my kind of engineering edge or my engineering interest. And so I continued to use those skills today.
You know, I noticed that, and as you mentioned, you did go on to do a master's program in engineering. So if this, did you just defer your medical program, you decided that you would spend a couple more years in biomedical studying more or I mean, I just wanted to kind of understand your interest in that versus sort of jumping right into medicine?
Sure, it’s a great question. So you know, in the initial years at Vanderbilt, again, I was focused on getting an engineering job. I mean, that was part of the decision would to, you know, do an automotive engineering internship or do some type of engineering internship in the summers, instead of doing, you know, biomedical research or shadowing in a physician's office.
I mean, I wasn't really thinking about medical school until I was a senior in college, which anyone, anyone who pursues medicine knows that you, it's very difficult to just decide as a senior in college, that you're going to go to medical school next year, there's, you know, certainly the MCAT, to think about, and, you know, there may be some other prerequisites, but also, you know, there's a, there's a certain amount of work that you have to put in, you know, shadowing research to, you know, be able to convince the medical school admissions committee that you want to be a physician.
And so, since I was only starting to make those kind of realize it, come to those realizations as a senior in college, yeah, I knew that I needed time to do some of those things.
Likewise, I did have an interest in Tissue Engineering, which you know, and regenerative medicine, which is a bio, it's a sector of biomedical engineering, but also has a very clinical application. So you know, it's much more relevant to patients and, and so, so I had this interest in tissue engineering, I knew I needed to, you know, do something for at least a year in order to get a medical school application together.
And then at the same time, I knew that, you know, I loved Vanderbilt, I wanted to stay, you know, I could see myself staying there forever. And I also wanted to do something that was funded, meaning that, you know, I didn't want to have to pay to go to graduate school, you know, to just to, you know, get my application together.
And so sustained to get a Master of Engineering and staying for two years, really offered me the opportunity to, you know, stay at Vanderbilt with and continue in relationships that I already had with the medical center and with the biomedical engineering department, I thought that, you know, staying would allow me to, really, you know, not only take advantage of the master's degree program, and work on that interest in tissue engineering, but it also would get, let me, you know, really quickly shore up the rest of that medical school applications. And so I wouldn't be in a new, you know, location new institution and have to figure those things out and meet different people.
And so, to me, it was a bit of a strategic decision, but also gave me an opportunity to, you know, again, stick around at Vanderbilt, and, you know, enjoy an institution that I loved.
And so, that was kind of the thought process with that. So over that, over those two years, I completed the engineering program, I did research in tissue engineering, I also shadowed a otolaryngologist in the medical center. You know, I took the MCAT, you know, I did all of those things, as well. And it was all it was funded. You know, I mean, I was a research assistant and a teaching assistant, I taught classes. And so, you know, so I was able to do it without going into, you know, educational debt.
I know that you had a great experience at Vanderbilt. Now, if you sort of were to redo your Vanderbilt years or undergraduate years, anything you would do differently?
Yeah, you know, I think that I would, so I mentioned study abroad briefly. Yeah. I really, I love traveling. I mean, that's something that's been the hardest to do. You know, give since the pandemic, and, and, and I developed that that appreciation for travel later, you know, after I'd left Vanderbilt.
And, you know, I wasn't, I wasn't, I did not prioritize doing a study abroad at the time. And, and that's one of the things I think I would have done, you know, like I said, it's difficult in engineering, because certain classes only taught in certain semesters. So, you know, you have to go in a sequence.
But there were opportunities in Australia and the United Kingdom and Ireland, and, you know, some of these places, and I think that traveling as a young adult, you know, in your, you know, early 20s, is something that everybody should do, I think no matter what your major is, I think, you know, understanding how people live in a place that's different from where you are is something that, you know, I would encourage anybody who is applying to college or, or you even decides not to go to college, I think understanding that perspective is important.
So, I think that is the only if you want to call it a regret that I have, because I think that's something that's much easier to do as a university student.
Venkat Raman 42:36
Venkat Raman 42:41
Let's sort of see, what, what kind of advice you might have for students of today, as they think about college? What are some of the big picture things you think they should take into account?
Yeah, so I think that, you know, students, high school students, today, we're thinking about, you know, what comes next, I think, you know, I think we live in a time where, you know, access to knowledge and access to, you know, information is significantly more than, you know, 20 years ago when I was going to college.
And so I think that it allows students, you know, the opportunity to really do some fact finding, and really try to understand what it is that they want.
And so I think all of the information is out there, you know, like things like this podcast, university websites, social media, people can learn a lot about, you know, what's out there, and what they can, you know, what they can have available to them.
But I think it's important to also ask students to be honest with themselves and not necessarily take the instruction of, you know, you know, parents or peers are looking what other people have done, people need to understand what it is that makes, that motivates them, and what they really want to do in life and also be open to the chance that those desires and plans may change over time And as you learn more.
And so, you know, I think, I think I would, I would ask students to you know, think about those things and then if they once they pick a university or pick a college or pick a job or whatever it is, that comes after high school.
I would invite everybody to stay open minded and you know, really live in the moment and, you know, understand the effects of what they're doing and understand, you know, things about other people.
I mean, these were all values that actually Vanderbilt instilled in me as a college student. You know, again, I'm, I mentioned it was a very global place, it was a very inclusive place. And I think that you know, the way I live my life today and the way I work today, you know, I credit Vanderbilt would make me you know, think about, you know, think about others, but also being honest with myself about you know what It is that I want to achieve and in life.
And so I guess that's, it's, it's, it's a vague concept. And I think it's something that's really difficult to, you know, portray to someone who's you know, 17, 18, 19 is just beginning their life.
But, you know, I think, um, you know, everybody creates their own path, there's no wrong path. There's no wrong University. And, you know, even though Vanderbilt was an amazing place, and it was a great place for me, and I'm so thankful, I got to go there. If I didn't get into Vanderbilt, and I, you know, gone somewhere else, I think, you know, you can make your own opportunities, and you can, you can make things work for you. So, I think everybody has that power. And it's important to remember that,
Venkat Raman 45:40
No, that's well said. And I think that is indeed the case that a lots of choices, lots of options. And, you know, each one has a unique story to build.
Venkat Raman 45:54
Sanjeet, we are sort of nearing the end of this podcast, I would like to give you a chance to talk about something that we haven't talked about, or share some memories or some traditions, Vanderbilt traditions, or expand on something that we may have already touched upon.
Yeah, I mean, you know, I, my memories are very fun, of Vanderbilt. And I think, you know, the mind has a tendency to, to, you know, forget the tough times. I mean, you know, certainly Vanderbilt was also a, it was a tough place to go to school. Classes were difficult.
And, you know, like I said, I was prepared, but, you know, it was a lot of work. And it's, you know, sometimes you, you forget about those things, and you remember the good memories, like, you know, my friends, you know, our weekends off from school, I certainly, you know, remember, you know, some of those class projects that we were up late working on, but you also some of the fun things I remember, it doesn't snow very much in you know, in Tennessee. And I'm in Memphis now, which is not that far from Nashville.
But I remember the one day, my sophomore year where it snowed on campus, and, you know, the entire campus was, was coated in, you know, a couple inches of snow and a massive, you know, campus wide snowball fights broke out and, and, and it was just one of those moments that you thought of, you know, okay, we're just all one community was really fun.
You know, you were throwing snowballs at people, you had no idea who they were, or where they came from, or anything like that. It was like something out of a movie.
And, you know, I just, you tend to glamorize some of these, these memories.
But, But yeah, no, I, I think we've covered a lot of ground, I think, you know, it's a fantastic place that was then and I think it has become even more so now. You know, again, they've done some incredible things on campus. Building a residential college system, again, they continue to bring in, you know, speakers and thinkers for, for students, they've improved diversity and where students come from, it's really no longer that local, kind of regional university.
It's now a, you know, a global university. I think in last year's class, there were 665 international students at the school. And you know, we have, you know, in the within the United States, there's people coming from Alaska and Hawaii, and Michigan, and Maine and all sorts of corners of the country and of the globe.
So, you know, I think Vanderbilt has become, you know, just an even better place from when I lived there.
Venkat Raman 48:35
No, this has been great, Sanjeet. First of all, I have to thank you for being so generous with your time and your descriptions, the details, the vividness and the passion and energy that you sort of bring to it.
So thank you so much. And I know you're, you're really busy, and I'm really glad we got a chance to put this together.
So for now, take care, be safe. I'm sure we'll talk more. But thank you again.
Great. Thanks so much for having me. Good luck to everyone listening. You're going to, everyone is going to do great no matter what they do. Thanks so much.
Hope you enjoyed our podcast with Sanjeet Rangarajan about Vanderbilt.
Sanjeet’s undergraduate experience is an upbeat story about a young man who enjoyed academics, extracurricular initiatives and nurtured friendships.
He found his niche, broadly in engineering and specifically BioMedical Engineering. His deep dive into Tissue Engineering demonstrated his interest and proficiency in this area.
He took the initiative to help start Model UN at Vanderbilt.
I hope Sanjeet’s story motivates you to take a deeper look at Vanderbilt.
For your questions or comments on this podcast, please email podcast at almamatters.io [email@example.com].
Thank you all so much for listening to our podcast today.
Transcripts for this podcast and previous podcasts are on almamatters.io forward slash podcasts [almamatters.io/podcasts].
Till we meet again, take care and be safe.
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