Portrait of Sarah Langlois

Name: Sarah Langlois
Hometown: River Falls
Majors: Biomedical and health science; mathematics
Position: Biomedical engineering doctoral program at the University of Minnesota

As the daughter of an engineer for 3M, Sarah Langlois knew from an early age that she was interested in science. 

“When my dad would talk about his job, it always sounded so fascinating,” Langlois said. “I always loved it when he would talk about the projects he was working on.”

At first, she thought she wanted to study and work in biology. But as Langlois got involved in research projects and worked as an intern, she became increasingly interested in engineering.

Now Langlois, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical and health science; and mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls on May 6, is on her way to creating devices of her own. She will continue her education after having been admitted to the University of Minnesota’s doctoral program for biomedical engineering. 

“Getting admitted (to graduate school) was a big deal to me,” Langlois said. “I knew it would be a stressful process, but I didn't anticipate just how stressful it was going to be. It felt like I was waiting forever to hear back. When I did, it was a big relief.”

Key to being admitted to the high-caliber program were the many hands-on research opportunities she engaged in while at UWRF, Langlois said. 

She learned valuable lab skills in her first research project, she said, one associated with invasive grass species. During her junior year, she did an internship at the Hudson location of Resonetics, a medical device manufacturing company based in Nashua, N.H. 

That experience was valuable, Langlois said, not only because it was much closer to the kind of work she wants to do professionally, but because it offered her access to many different device design ideas. 

The internship was valuable in another way as well, she said. 

“That experience also taught me that manufacturing was not where I want to end up. I learned that I want to be more on the research end,” Langlois said. 

Langlois is involved with exactly that kind of research through another project she is currently working on. With Physics Professor Jolene Johnson Armstrong, she has created a custom incubator that sustains bacteria samples under a fluorescent microscope so they don’t need to be replaced as frequently. She credits Physics Professor Lowell McCann with connecting her with businesses in her field across the U.S. 

“There are so many opportunities here at UWRF to do quality research,” Langlois said. “It seems like every professor really wants to help you and is willing to spend time with you.”

With those opportunities, Langlois urges first-year students to get involved in research and internship opportunities as soon as possible. Students should apply for internships, she said, even if those options aren’t exactly where they see themselves in the future. 

“Employers look more for if you’ve had an experience rather than if it fits your career perfectly,” Langlois said, noting internships and research projects prompt students to learn leadership, teamwork and networking skills. 

Her other advice to students involves a sentiment she learned herself, an attitude she credits with helping her reach her graduate school goal. 

“Don’t be afraid to take an opportunity, to take a chance,” Langlois said. “That is a big part of how you learn what you really want to do.”