"I don’t think there’s any place quite like it"

Harvard senior Scott Yim '13 studied biomaterials to help reduce medical costs abroad (Harvard Gazette)

By Peter Reuell, Harvard Gazette

Scott Yim '13 (Photo by Stephanie Mitchell, Harvard News Office.)

When they think of medical devices and biomaterials, most people don’t think about the type of stuff they’d find growing in their backyards. But most people aren’t Harvard senior Scott Yim.

A biomedical engineering concentrator and Quincy House resident, Yim’s senior project explored the use of naturally derived materials such as bamboo to help reduce the cost of medical devices and biomaterials in the developing world.

The project, Yim said, grew out of personal experience and encouragement from his concentration adviser, Sujata Bhatia.

“There are many medical devices that are very expensive to manufacture, or that use costly materials that require a lot of processing,” Yim said. “Going forward, I think we need to look into reducing those costs and making those devices more accessible to people, not just in the U.S. but around the world.

The research is still in the early stages. Yim’s project focused on combining natural materials with various cell lines to determine whether they were biologically compatible. In the future, he said, the potential clinical applications could be great.

“A material like bamboo is very strong. In our tests, we found it to be comparable to rat skeletal muscle,” he said. “It could be used in a host of ways that are exciting and novel.”

Working in the lab, however, only scratches the surface of Yim’s undergraduate experience.

“This place has been very good to me,” he said. “I was incredibly fortunate and lucky to have the opportunity to come here, and I’ve tried to take advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves, so I’ve involved myself in quite a lot. I walked onto the men’s varsity volleyball team, I was able to pursue different leadership positions on campus. I never would have thought, coming from my hometown, that I would wind up here.

“This place has opened so many doors for me and my family,” Yim added. “The people from my community who have had the opportunity to attend an institution like Harvard are very few and far between, so I tried to take advantage of every opportunity this place afforded me.”

During his four years, Yim became one of the most recognized voices on campus. In addition to blogging about his experiences as a student for the Harvard College Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, he has given tours through the Crimson Key Society, participated in this year’s “Virtual Visitas,” and earlier this year he was elected second marshal for the Class of 2013, a lifelong position that carries into alumni life.

Through it all, Yim said, he has worked hard to not become complacent about the opportunity a Harvard education represents.

“I think it’s easy for everyday life here to become quite mundane, especially when you’re trudging through problem sets and stressed out about exams,” he said. “But when I give tours, there are always people who say they would love to attend a place like this, and tell me that I’m lucky. That has really reminded me that we are all very fortunate to be here.”

As he wraps up the final stages of his senior year, Yim admitted that leaving Cambridge will be bittersweet.

“If I were to sum up my experience here in one word, it would be transformative,” he said. “It’s going to be very tough to leave — between my blockmakes, classmates, advisers, Quincy House, and the incredible sense of community. To be surrounded by people who are so passionate is really motivating and challenging at times. It’s definitely made me realize what’s important to me, and what I find happiness in pursuing, and that’s really special. I don’t think there’s any place quite like it.”

This is one in a series of profiles in the Harvard Gazette showcasing some of Harvard’s stellar graduates.

Topics: Health / Medicine, Bioengineering