Priscella Asman fell in love online – more than 6,000 miles across the North Atlantic Ocean while sitting at a computer in Ghana – with the biomedical engineering program at the University of Houston.
She read about Cullen College of Engineering researchers looking for biomarkers for different diseases, and about students working in labs, who saw medical problems in the field thanks to the University’s proximity to the largest medical center in the world. She read about Professor Nuri Ince building a device to improve treatment for patients afflicted with Parkinson’s disease.
“It was all so inspiring,” said Asman, who has a bachelor’s in biomedical engineering from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and previously worked as a quality control officer for MediWise International Company Ltd. She applied to the master’s program, but didn’t think she’d get accepted.
Asman was not only accepted, but also got to work with Ince in his lab. With a talent for bioinstrumentation, she first rebuilt a device connected to the Parkinson’s disease research and then built a digital glove – a low-cost device to monitor sensory responses while patients undergo surgery.
“I’m all for coming up with new ways to do something, anything that involves helping people, anything that involves hands-on work where I’m building something,” Asman said.
As her master’s studies and her research project drew closer to completion, Asman started dreaming of earning a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at UH. Her big concern was how to pay for it.
Ince, who is also Asman’s graduate advisor, told her about the international fellowship from the American Association of University Women. The organization awards these fellowships for full-time study or research to women who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Both graduate and postgraduate studies are supported. More than 3,600 women from more than 145 countries have received these AAUW fellowships.
She applied for a fellowship and became one of 245 AAUW award winners for the 2018-2019 award year.
“The fellowship is a great help, even to the point where I can actually payback my parents,” said Asman, choking up as she recalled her mother spending her savings to make her daughter’s dream come true by sending her halfway across the world to attend school at UH and her father’s encouragement and support. “When things are hard, I remember my parents and all that they have done to get me to this point. That’s what keeps me going.”
She’s excited about continuing her studies and research, working with Ince and building her expertise in the biomedical field.
“I have done biomedical so long that I have fallen in love with it,” said Asman, who is now inspiring others. “People, my younger sister, look up to me back at home. I tell them ‘I’m just like you. I really struggled, but I have come this far and I really like it.’ I encourage them.”