Ariella Cohen ’16S earned a B.A. in the physical sciences and music at the Stern College for Women, and then went on to earn a Master of Science in Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania with a concentration in Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering.
In early 2020, Ariella joined LifeLens Technologies as an electro-mechanical engineer, working on LifeLens’ specialty, which is “next generation treatment devices for personal health monitoring” and “simple technologies for high fidelity physiologic monitoring.”
YU News caught up with Ariella recently as she spoke to students as part of the Meet a Professional Series hosted by the Shevet Glaubach Center for Career Strategy and Professional Development. We spoke to Ariella about engineering, her time at YU and what students can do to prepare themselves for what’s next.
What is an electro-mechanical engineer?
An electro-mechanical engineer, also known as a mechatronics engineer, uses a combination of the principles of electrical and mechanical engineering, oftentimes along with software and controllers, to make inanimate objects interact with their surroundings.
Mechatronic devices are part of our everyday lives. Some examples include a Roomba vacuum which can change course when it senses an obstacle or an automatic pet food dispenser which has the ability to sense when the bowl is empty.
My job as an electro-mechanical engineer is to design, build and test such devices.
How did you get interested in mechanical engineering?
I was originally interested in medicine, which led me to be exposed to the ever-growing field of medical robotics. This passion is what led me to go to graduate school for bioengineering.
Soon after I started my master’s program, I began studying mechanical engineering as well so that I could focus more on the robotics side of things in order to obtain a more well-rounded education.
How did your time at YU set you up for this career? How did your internships set you up for success?
My time at YU was when I really started thinking about what I wanted to do professionally since I did not have a real plan before I started college. After speaking extensively with and getting advice from some professors and the staff at the Career Center, I chose the physical sciences major, which was a steppingstone toward my engineering career. It provided me with some of the essential coursework necessary before jumping into engineering.
I truly believe that all of my internship experiences were what got me to where I am today. The internship that I held during my time at Stern College was likely a big part of what got me into graduate school. It provided real-world experience in a research lab that combined my two passions for medicine and engineering.
I also think that having work experience on your résumé helps you be further recognized whether or not the particular experiences are exactly related to the job or program you might be applying for.
What are some tips for getting into graduate school? How was your experience at Penn?
Do what you can during your time as an undergraduate to form relationships with people who can serve as references for you, both professional and academic. This might include securing an internship and connecting with professors.
Use the personal statement that most applications require as an opportunity to bring to light all of the things that the standard questions on an application don’t highlight. This might include how you stand out, your ambitions, why you’re excited about the particular school and how you think that school will allow you to thrive.
Between the dual curriculum and completing a double major, my experience at YU definitely set me up for dealing with the overwhelming workloads that came up at Penn as well. It was a difficult adjustment since most people in my graduate program already had degrees in engineering, so I had to work hard to get up to speed.
Overall, I had a great experience at Penn academically and with extracurricular activities. It provided a really valuable opportunity to interact with and learn from individuals who were very different from myself yet shared similar goals, professional and otherwise.
What can students do to maximize their college experience? What are a few things you did?
Join clubs and/or extracurriculars that excite you!
I strongly believe in taking time to do fun things outside of schoolwork. I participated in the student chamber ensemble at Stern College, and it was an incredible added dimension to my experience. I also channeled my passion for music by adding music as a second major.
I definitely regret not joining more clubs, so I always encourage people to do as much as they have time for without compromising their schoolwork.
I would additionally recommend taking classes that excite you that are outside of your direct area of interest and maybe even adding on a minor or a second major.
Stern’s elective requirements are also a good opportunity to get exposed to so many different disciplines.
What are a few tips that you would give to current students?
Ask a lot of questions! Especially if you are not completely set on your career path, it is so worthwhile to try to get as much information as you can about potential fields of interest.
I used LinkedIn to find YU alumni in my field of interest since it was not a common one at the time, and I reached out to all of them. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get responses to all of the cold emails or LinkedIn messages you send out. The more you send, the more potential there is to receive responses. Most people will be really happy to chat with you.
It is important to keep an updated LinkedIn profile because you never know if or when a recruiter might happen upon your page.
Form relationships with professors, talk to them about their experiences and find out if they have any personal or professional connections that may be beneficial for you.
Always remain open-minded in regards to job opportunities and graduate school options. It is always worth talking to people and thinking about options that might not sound perfect right away.
Don’t be afraid to pave the way if you have a professional goal that is not common among your peers. It might take some effort but following your dreams will be very worthwhile in the long run.
One thing I will add is that it’s important to never lose the desire to learn new things. Whether it’s at work or in life in general, always remain curious and ask questions. That is definitely a quality that schools and workplaces will value.