Oh, The People You'll Know: Kelsey Biscocho
Kelsey Biscocho was initially drawn to mechanical engineering because her father studied electrical engineering in college when he was in the Philippines. She thought that studying mechanical engineering would give her a diverse background that would offer her great freedom to choose what she could work with in the future.
Much of her time freshman year involved finding study patterns that worked for her as she adjusted to college life. In her second semester of freshman year, she joined Alpha Omega Epsilon, the sorority for women in engineering and technical sciences. AOE is a sorority that is both professional and social, and they offer an informal rush process which, Kelsey appreciated. She thought the sorority created a great community of women in STEM for both undergrads and graduate students who offered support to each other.
After serving as a summer intern at Hydraforce, Kelsey continued the journey of finding her space within ME. She had her first introduction into the design courses that required her to build prototypes through ME 270, Design for Manufacturing. At the time she didn’t feel that she knew specifically what field she wanted to pursue within mechanical engineering. However, she felt she was developing friendships in the department that gave her strength and security, and she made peace with the idea that it is okay not to have a laser-focused vision of how the future will unfold.
Kelsey has a passion for writing, and she was considering switching her major to English. She took many classes in English including British Feminism, Post-Apocalyptic Fiction, Creative Writing, and theory-based classes as well. Having the chance to delve into the topics of identity and empathy that English focuses on was fascinating to her. Eventually, she decided to minor in English, and continue pursuing her ME. She believes that her studies in English helped her to be more empathetic in her engineering classes, where she had to work with other people, and it also helped her to develop her personal relationships.
During the summer of 2018, Kelsey studied abroad at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Situated about 30 minutes way from the city of Hong Kong, HKUST allowed Kelsey access to the city, and all of its gorgeous mountains and beaches, fun man-made attractions, and of course the incredible food. She made connections with the students also studying abroad, two of whom she still is in touch with. In addition to Linear Algebra, Kelsey had the chance to learn many things about not only herself, but the world around her as well. She believed that the experience opened her up to seeing the world in a new light. She gained perspective of how people lived their lives differently from her own.
Returning from HKUST, Kelsey moved into her junior year. While abroad, she felt the freedom to not constantly worry about homework and studying, and this feeling made her realize a need to pursue therapy. She connected with a therapist on campus who helped her through depression and taught her how to develop good coping mechanisms for the feelings she was having. Kelsey shared that therapy gave her a good space to parse through the emotions she was experiencing. Through that process she was able to come to the conclusion that she was proud to be studying mechanical engineering and found her calling to one day work in the energy and sustainability field.
The first semester of her junior year marked the continuation of the deep dive into technical work. Kelsey decided to leave AOE to free up time to pursue other opportunities. She focused first on her mental health and dedicating her time to her course work, with heavy design and iterating classes like ME 370 (Mechanical Design I and Fluid Dynamics to focus on mastering.
During her second semester she became involved in Professor Nenad Miljkovic’s research lab. Her work focused on issues with the Brayton thermodynamic cycle applied to air cycle machines in gas turbine powered airplanes. She created a setup for testing superhydrophobic coating to be applied in the study of water droplets in a lab setting. The following summer, she participated in the Summer Research Opportunities Program, where students from across the country travel to another university to do research and learn about graduate school. She was a part of a group of students who were predominantly people of color, and she appreciated the experience where she was introduced to a group of people who she would not have known otherwise.
Kelsey continued her research during her senior year and also joined a new registered student organization on campus, Alma’s Talking Dogs. I actually created this organization to continue the work from the 2019 EOH project, “It’s A Talking Dog (Collar)!” I believed there was so much still to build on the project and increase communication between dogs and humans. Kelsey had faith in me and the idea and joined the team as the Mechanical Packaging Lead. Our team was able to make great strides in the technical work of the device, and Kelsey’s leadership and support was truly integral to the success of the organization.
Note: As I wrote these student profiles these past few years, I tried to keep my personal bias out of my writing as much as I could. But in truth, I don’t think I did such a great job with that. I have so much respect and care for the people that I had the privilege to know at Illinois. It is difficult to hide that when writing profiles. Trying to hide my bias with Kelsey was no different.
Kelsey and I have had the great fortune to support each other and learn side by side through college. She played a huge role in my own growth. She has an impeccable sense of fashion, unmatched by anyone I’ve met. She is naturally creative, artistic, and has an incredible singing voice. She is compassionate, dedicated, humbly brilliant, and a truly wonderful friend.