Chisom Orakwue: Outstanding Graduating international student

Chisom Orakwue of Lagos, Nigeria is the Outstanding Graduating International Student in the College of Engineering. Orakwue, a biomedical engineering major, received the International Presidential Scholarship and the Richard E. Durst Scholarship. This academic year, she has been involved in research in professor Karissa Tilbury’s laboratory, focused on the use of spatial frequency domain imaging (SFDI) for detecting biomarkers of diabetic neuropathy and sepsis. For her capstone project, she designed a wheelchair cushion to help reduce pressure sores. Beyond the lab and classroom, Orakwue has been a Black Bear Mentor, a resident assistant and a peer tutor. Last year, she was vice president of the International Student Association. Orakwue plans to pursue graduate school.

What difference has UMaine made in your life and in helping you reach your goals?
UMaine has helped me fulfill my dream of becoming a biomedical engineer. The amazing professors in the Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, and the staff in the Office of International Programs have supported me every step of the way and helped me become more passionate to make a positive difference in the world. In addition, I have formed lasting connections with faculty and students.

Have you had an experience at UMaine that has changed or shaped the way you see the world?
The International Students Association and the Office of International Programs collaborate to organize annual cultural and festive events such as the International Dance Festival and Culturefest. I performed in two International Dance Festival events and had the best experiences, more so because I love to dance and connect with students from different parts of the world.

Why UMaine?
I chose UMaine for its incredible engineering program and welcoming atmosphere. UMaine felt like the best place to find my path and grow into a well-rounded individual.

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?
There are a lot of student organizations that provide leadership skills and opportunities to contribute to the campus community. The Tutor Program, Counseling Center, Residence Life and Student Wellness Center provide a wealth of support and guidance to students. UMaine is very student-centered and cares about the overall well-being of every student.

Have you worked closely with a professor or mentor who made your UMaine experience better?
My academic advisers, professor David Neivandt and Doc Robert Bowie, have been a constant source of support, motivation and encouragement since the beginning of my studies at UMaine. Professor Karissa Tilbury fueled my interest in research and accepted me into her lab to gain top-class research experiences. Professor Lisa Weeks inspired me to become a more creative and intellectual biomedical engineer. The professors in biomedical engineering are passionate and dedicated to helping students succeed. I am glad to have met such amazing professors. Orlina Boteva, Sarah Joughin, Mireille Le Gal and the staff members in the Office of International Programs helped me adjust smoothly to the American culture. They have made my experience at UMaine fun and enjoyable. I am also glad to have met such incredible and supportive people.

What advice do you have for incoming students to help them get off to the best start academically?
Know that UMaine is committed to helping you succeed and achieve your goals. Acquaint yourselves with the abundant academic and social resources that the school provides. The professors truly care about their students and are always available, so do not be afraid to reach out to them. I hope you realize soon enough that UMaine is the best place to be!

Contact: Margaret Nagle,