Ines Khiyara: Outstanding Graduating International Student

Ines Khiyara of Crisnée, Belgium, is the Outstanding Graduating International Student in the College of Engineering.  

Khiyara is majoring in biomedical engineering with a minor in environmental engineering. 

Cite your top three academic scholarships, achievements, and awards: International Presidential Scholarship and Richard E. Durst Scholarship, multiple scholar-athlete awards, America East Honor Roll.

Tell us about the research, internships, or scholarly pursuits you were involved in as a student:
I started being involved in undergrad research this past semester. I was responsible for reading literature research, performing imaging, and collecting and analyzing data in Dr. Karissa Tilbury’s lab. Dr. Tilbury’s lab explores the Duchenne muscular dystrophy zebrafish model using label-free microscopy tools to characterize sarcomere length. Furthermore, my senior capstone group project consisted of designing and fabricating an efficient and cost-effective portable biohazardous chemical detector for oxygen levels, and hydrogen sulfide and ammonia concentrations for Down East Emergency Medicine Institute (DEEMI). This was done in collaboration with the Orono Fire Department.

Beyond academics, what extracurricular activities occupied your time?
I was part of the women’s varsity swim team where I competed for three years. I also taught children basic swimming techniques through the Rec Center and the Black Bear Swim School, and coached Swim Fit, an adult swim program. Another activity that occupied my time was tutoring student-athletes in chemistry, biochemistry and calculus.

What are your plans after graduation?
Attending graduate school for a Master of Science in biomedical engineering.

What difference has UMaine made in your life and in helping you reach your goals?
As I was learning English, UMaine provided me the confidence to grow and share with people. Classes and professors helped me figure out what topics I was interested in and what I wanted to do with my future career. UMaine has also given me so many great memories and experiences that I will never forget. I have made many amazing friendships, which I am grateful for. In the future, I look forward to visiting my friends that I have made from all across the world.

Have you had an experience at UMaine that has changed or shaped the way you see the world?
Over the past three years, all of the many memories that I made have been largely due to my teammates on the swim team. I have been able to experience and see many different backgrounds and upbringings from multiple countries, which helped me to learn to celebrate all of our differences. Furthermore, studying at UMaine opened many opportunities for future careers and allowed me to learn about different cultures and a new language. During my time in Maine, I was only able to go home for two to three weeks a year. Doing so made me realize how important my goals were and made me much more independent.

Why UMaine?
UMaine was a really great fit for me. I only had three years of eligibility left for swimming; consequently, I had the objective to graduate in three years. UMaine offered me the opportunity to successfully complete my degree by allowing me to arrange my class schedule and take courses in the winter and summer sessions to help me manage a heavy course load. UMaine also allowed me to compete at a Division I level and achieve all of my goals in swimming.

How would you define the opportunities for student success at UMaine? Is there any particular initiative, program, or set of resources that helped you succeed?
The swim team and the Athletics department definitely helped me succeed in my daily life. The resources that helped me succeed most were the academic support staff in the Athletics department, as well as my academic adviser in the department of biomedical engineering, Dr. Tilbury. These people gave me great advice and helped me plan my schedule to ensure that I would be able to not only achieve my goals, but also balance both athletics and academics. The Office of International Programs and the Career Center were also great resources that helped me adapt to the college life and plan for my future after graduation.

Have you worked closely with a professor(s) or mentor(s) who made your UMaine experience better?
Many professors were very supportive of my academic goals, most notably Dr. Tilbury, Dr. David Neivandt, Dr. Caitlin Howell, and Dr. Michael Mason, who were always open to helping me to succeed.

My coaches, Susan Lizotte and Linda Costello, have also been very understanding of my demanding course load and goals and would arrange practices outside of the team practices so that I was able to attend classes that took place during practice. Jeff Wren, a volunteer coach, was also a strong influence on my swimming career. He helped me become the best swimmer possible, and helped improve my attitude about swimming, racing and other challenges in life. Ben Randall, my strength coach, helped me become a better and stronger athlete during the school year and summer. He was also someone I could always talk to and offered me support.

What advice do you have for incoming students to help them get off to the best start academically? 

My advice to incoming students is to join extracurricular activities and to make friends in your major. I would also advise incoming students to organize their days; wake up early and have to-do lists to ensure that there is time for exercising and social activities. Take advantage of all of the academic opportunities that UMaine has to offer, such as research experiences, co-op programs, study abroad and courses outside of your major.

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745