Steamboat grad recognized for dual pursuit of engineering, music
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — One of seven young men and women selected for the University of Arizona’s “Wonder Makes Us” campaign, Melissa Requist is the first Wildcat featured as a student who embodies the slogan “Do the unknown. The unimaginable. It’s the fuel that makes the extraordinary go.”
Before she was a Wildcat, Requist was a Sailor, graduating from Steamboat Springs High School in 2016.
Now a senior at Arizona, Requist is only at the beginning of her college career. She has eight more years toward her MD-PhD goal — a medical degree and a PhD in biomedical engineering.
While an impressive plan, what sets Requist apart — and led to her being nominated for the promotional campaign — is her dual devotion to music.
An accomplished flute player, Requist started playing in fifth grade at Steamboat Springs Middle School and ultimately, participated in honor band and the all-state orchestra.
She also competed in ski jumping and Nordic combined.
But when Requist, a National Merit Scholar, started looking at colleges for biomedical engineering, she knew she wanted to continue to play and study music.
To Requist, they are intrinsically combined — in her life and in her brain. She needs the music to do her engineering. She needs the engineering to do her music. If she’s stuck on a math problem, she will step away and play the flute. Having an outlet, alternating and using those different parts of her brain, is part of her process.
As she describes on her “Wonder Makes Me Design” profile: “To me, the processes I use in engineering, when I’m looking at something and asking ‘how can I fix this?’ are really similar to how I create music. And it’s that curiosity and imagination that I think is incredibly important in the arts. But I see it being exactly the same in engineering. I’m creating something in my mind that doesn’t exist yet, and I have to see how it fits into the world.”
What also sets Requist apart is her desire to contribute to a better world, and her wish to keep humanity at the center of her medical and research pursuits.
In her spare time, Requist plays the flute for hospice patients. It helps the families of patients, she said, and brings a “calming, comforting human element to a medical setting that can feel pretty cold.”
Requist has the pragmatism of a doctor — “Death is a part of life” — but she also works to bring more art, and through it, beauty, compassion and humanity to people at the end of their lives.
In her medical career, she wants to solve problems and focus on things like how bones interact with screws and how to make better prosthetics.
Last summer, Requist interned at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, working on the biomechanics of people after amputations. She was asked to present her research at the 2019 Biomedical Engineering Society national conference.
On growing up in Steamboat, Requist identifies some of the things that shaped her path. As an athlete, she became interested in injuries and the healing process. She had science and music teachers who inspired her.
Requist took an internship with a local orthopedic surgeon and spent one summer shadowing a general surgeon at the hospital. Her parents brought her to the Strings Music Festival.
And knowing she was in a “small pond,” she wanted to push herself to see how she measured up in a bigger pond.
Requist’s ambition and love of both music and science runs in the family, it would seem. Her brother and sister, twins, are sophomores at the University of Arizona. One studies oboe and computer science, and the other studies clarinet and system engineering.
On being part of Arizona’s newly launched media campaign, which is prominently featured on the main website, Requist said she likes to think prospective students will see it and realize they, too, can pursue all their passions and set their sights high.
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