This undergrad has perfected the balancing act
Mechanical engineering junior Oluwami Dosunmu-Ogunbi will have a summer break after completing her undergraduate degree and heading to graduate school.
She could use this summer to take a break, but that wouldn’t be her style.
Dosunmu-Ogunbi has kept herself busy during her three years at Illinois. She’s a published author, resident project advisor, and HackIllinois staff member, to name a few.
But that’s why—out of the 11 schools her parents helped her consider—she picked Illinois. She loved the resources that Illinois offered, and she has taken full advantage of them since she arrived on campus.
“When I came in from high school I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Some sort of engineering. Maybe become a doctor. But I didn’t know what I was going to do with that or what I wanted to research,” Dosunmu-Ogunbi said.
All of the experiences at Illinois have helped her narrow her possibilities and open doors to potential careers after graduate school.
Her first research opportunity came via the National University of Singapore. She was there for a semester-long research trip and worked alongside two mechatronics professors and graduate students who were studying powder-based 3D food printing. Her role was focused on the mechanism controlling how the powder for the printer would be distributed and smoothed on every layer.
It was also her first time traveling to Asia. Outside of the lab, Dosunmu-Ogunbi was able to visit Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia and see many famous South East Asian sights. She said she was happy that she could combine this with a research opportunity rather than just sitting in a classroom.
“I don’t think I would have gotten that anywhere else,” she said. “I didn’t even know research abroad was a thing.”
Dosunmu-Ogunbi now works in Illinois computer science professor and virtual reality pioneer Steven Lavalle’s lab, collaborating with graduate students to make a building mapper out of the Weazel Ball, a popular children’s toy.
Researching in these environments has solidified her desire to pursue a PhD.
“Research is interesting because you get to control what you do,” Dosunmu-Ogunbi said. “You don’t have a boss over you saying ‘I need this by this time.’ I can choose my projects and how far I want to go with them. That has always been attractive to me.”
But because her experiences are not restricted to research, neither are her ambitions.
Dosunmu-Ogunbi came to campus a semester early – the summer before her freshman year – for the Illinois Engineering First-Year Experience (IEFX) program. She enjoyed her experience so much that she came back as a resident project advisor, a combination RA and TA.
She was also an Engineering Learning Assistant helping freshmen students and teaching them about the department. This then developed into a position as lead ELA for the entire MechSE department.
She enjoyed teaching so much that the possibility as a future professor now excites her.
But she doesn’t want to stop there. During her time at Illinois, she has also studied entrepreneurship and marketing. She said she has become increasingly interested in transitioning research projects into marketable products.
Dosunmu-Ogunbi is part of the College of Business/College of Engineering Hoeft Technology and Management Program, which has allowed her to take business classes and attend professional workshops (resulting in a T&M minor). Through this program she was also able to travel to Brazil for the International Business Competition, where she incorporated her engineering skills while working with students from Hong Kong, Brazil, and Germany to create a business plan incorporating drone technology.
With classes, research, business, and teaching, one would think that Dosunmu-Ogunbi does not have much free time.
That’s because she fills it with even more.
She self-published her first book in a sci-fi/fantasy series her freshman year of high school and published the second one during her freshman year. The first book has recently been republished by the major Christian publishing house Tate Publishing.
During high school, she became interested in the National Society of Black Engineers and joined the organization immediately upon arriving at Illinois. She now serves as NSBE’s Pre-College Initiative Chair and Senator.
Additionally, Dosunmu-Ogunbi has put her mechanical engineering degree to work with an internship in the Audit Department at Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Indiana. She has served as a SCOT (Student Consultant on Teaching) to improve education within the department. And she is on the operations staff for HackIllinois.
Despite her involvement in so many things, Dosunmu-Ogunbi’s grades have not suffered and she remains a Chancellor’s Scholar.
As she prepares for graduate school, she is thankful not only for what her experiences at the university and in MechSE have taught her about engineering, but also about herself.
“One of the most important lessons that I’ve learned is don’t bite off more than you can chew,” Dosunmu-Ogenbi said. “That’s a lesson I will be applying from now on.”