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Sam Seelbach

Like many high schoolers, Sam Seelbach wasn’t entirely sure what professional field he wanted to go into, even in his senior year.

“My dad is a computer scientist, and my brother is working on his engineering degree, so I thought maybe chemical engineering would be a possible choice,” says Sam. But a class assignment at Columbus State helped Sam redirect his career choice, and he is now on his way to earning his bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering at The Ohio State University.

“In my first English class at Columbus State, the teacher assigned a paper on our field of choice. After looking at the job options, I realized biomedical engineering was where I wanted to be. It combines a broad base of subjects – biology, chemistry, physics, organic chemistry. I like to know a lot about a lot of things, so this fits my interests perfectly.”

An avid runner, Sam plans to use biomedical engineering to help other athletes. “With a degree in BME, you can get involved in designing prosthetics, or the machines that make prosthetics, or the design and layouts of the labs where they are made. There are lots of options for helping people, and I want to apply that to the field of running if I can.”

Earning an engineering degree from Ohio State wasn’t always a given for Sam. He faced both financial and academic hurdles in reaching his goal.

“My grades weren’t stellar for my first two years in high school. In 11th grade, I got my first job and quickly realized that I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life. Getting a college education and a good job became a goal, but it’s difficult to make up for two years of poor grades.”

Sam knew Columbus State’s Preferred Pathway was the best option to get him into Ohio State. The Preferred Pathway allows students to start their education at Columbus State, then transfer to a four-year college to finish a bachelor’s degree.

Sam met with Ohio State advisors early to make sure he had all of the right courses for transfer. Admission to the biomedical engineering program at Ohio State is very competitive, and Sam worried that being a Columbus State transfer student might hurt his chance of being accepted.

“The Ohio State advisor assured me that wasn’t the case – that Columbus State students get the same consideration as a student who does their first two years at Ohio State.” In fact, all of the Columbus State students in Sam’s cohort who applied to the program were accepted.

Sam applied for Future Scientists of Ohio program at Columbus State, and was awarded a scholarship with full tuition to Columbus State, and the chance to apply for Ohio State scholarships, as well. “It’s been an amazing program. In addition to paying for my education, it has also been an important networking tool in my field.”

Through the STEM club, Sam was introduced to many different internship opportunities, and was accepted as a physics intern at Ohio State’s Center for Emergent Materials. He went straight there after graduating Columbus State in Spring 2014.

“I applied to the program as a freshman and wasn’t accepted, but I didn’t give up. I applied again as a sophomore and got in. So I tell other students – don’t give up if you really want something. Research experience is vital in this field, so keep working toward it and you’ll get there.”

Sam spent the summer learning research techniques and researching the properties of pink diamonds. “Pink diamonds have fascinating quantum properties that could potentially revolutionize biological imaging.” During the summer, he helped create parts to assemble the experiment, including designing the parts in AutoCAD, and learning how to program with a wide array of machines.

His internship was so successful that Sam was hired as an undergraduate physics researcher in the lab, and will continue his research this academic year.

Sam’s advice to students planning to transfer is “Get involved.” In addition to being president of Columbus State’s STEM Club, Sam was also president of the Cross Country Club, was active in the Leadership Society and the MAN Initiative, served as a Student Ambassador, and was a peer tutor for math.

“Don’t look at clubs or activities as just a resume builder. Get involved with things you really care about. It will make an amazing difference and you will be exposed to experiences and opportunities that will help you grow – and ultimately help your career.”