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Central MA College Standout: Duke University’s Kayla Manzi

Tuesday, April 01, 2014


Duke University student and Dudley resident Kayla Manzi brings her passion to everything she does.

Dudley resident Kayla Manzi wanted to experience something new and exciting when she headed off to college in Durham, North Carolina. The Duke University junior is planning on going to graduate school and then moving into a career in Biomedical Engineering. Manzi is a varsity cheerleader and a member of Zeta Tau Alpha Fraternity, Society of Women Engineers, Special Olympics College and the BME Society.

A Conversation with Kayla Manzi

SW: What is the career that you envision for yourself?

KM: In the future I see myself researching in the biomedical engineering field or working in industry developing medical devices. I would like to go to graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin for biomedical engineering, then work either in a laboratory focused on cellular and tissue engineering, or for a company that develops new and innovative medical devices to keep the medical world advancing.

SW: What is your course of study and what drew you to it?

KM: I am studying biomedical engineering (BME). I have always been drawn to the math and science subjects growing up in school and because of that, I attended the Mass Academy of Math and Science for high school. In that program, I was introduced to engineering through my studies at WPI. I have known since I was younger that I wanted to do something in the medical field but was unsure about being a doctor. Biomedical engineering allowed to me continue with my passion of the math and science fields while also allowing me to fulfill my dream of working in the medical field to help people and improve care.

SW: What has been your most memorable course?

KM: My most memorable course is a course that I’m taking now called Biomedical Imaging. The class is split between two professors and the first was a phenomenal woman who specialized in MRI and is part of cutting-edge research taking place at the Duke Hospital. The second professor is a new teacher who just received his Ph.D. with a focus on ultrasound. Having two professors who are both experts in their respective fields is a privilege.

I have really enjoyed my upper level BME courses because the classes are getting smaller and I am getting to know my professors much better. Going to school at the #2 undergraduate BME program in the country, I am learning from the best and I appreciate it every day. The two professors in this course are young, approachable, and very funny. They remind me that anyone with an interest can pursue a career in academia; it doesn’t have to be so nerdy. They also both take the time to really get to know the students and provide many hands on demonstrations and examples in class.

SW: What leadership roles have you taken on campus?

KM: In my sorority, I have acted as both Director of Activities and Vice President of Membership. Being involved as a leader in a group that has given me so much was very rewarding. I am also on the varsity cheerleading team and have acted as Social Chair for the past two years. I hope to be a captain my senior year.

SW: What are you passionate about?                

KM: At Duke, its hard not to be passionate about the school itself and the spirit it embodies. There is nothing like a Duke basketball game in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The passion for the school itself by all of the students and staff is unrivaled by anything I’ve ever experienced. Whether its supporting our athletic teams, our professors, or just enjoying the campus, Duke is always full of life and happiness. I am proud to go to a school where the most diverse people can come together and share a love for the same thing. I’m passionate about Duke.

SW: What is one thing you have learned about yourself since becoming a college student?

KM: Becoming a college student has taught me so much about myself and about life in general. I grew up in Dudley, which is a very small town where everyone knows my parents and my grandparents and everyone’s business. It was definitely a fun way to grow up, with all of my family around all the time and being recognized no matter which grocery store I went into, but I knew I wanted to experience something new and exciting when it came time to apply for college.

Attending a school where all 50 states and over 80 countries are represented, I learned that the world is so much bigger than I am and there is so much that I can learn just from my peers. There are so many experiences I haven’t had yet and so many great people that I never would’ve met had I stayed in Dudley. I learned that I have so much more learning to do and the people in our country are so motivated and interested that I know I’ll always have people to learn with me no matter where I end up.

SW: Where do you go and what do you do when you leave campus?

KM: Durham is an extreme foodie city, so when I leave campus I’m usually looking for a new hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Carolina barbecue is different from barbecue anywhere else in the country, so I frequent many local barbecue places in town. We also have a lot of unique brunch and breakfast places that are always worth a visit on the weekends. Besides food, I take weekend trips to the coast to go to the beach or hike at the local quarries. Other than that, I travel with the cheerleading team to cheer on our football and basketball teams at other ACC colleges.

SW: What is your favorite book?

KM: That is a tough one…I think I have to say the Harry Potter series in its entirety, just because I’ve read the whole thing upwards of 30 times and it never gets old. My favorite author outside of my Harry Potter obsession is Jodi Picoult. I’ve read all of her books and there isn’t a single one where I didn’t fall in love with the characters.

SW: What or who has had the greatest influence on you to date? Why?

KM: My mom has definitely influenced me the most to date. She is a beautiful person inside and out and always puts the needs of others before herself. No matter what adversity or struggles she is facing, she always finds a way to stay positive. She has always encouraged me to pursue my dreams no matter how far from her they would take me. She pushed me to do my best in everything and supports me no matter what. She also sets a great example of how to see the good in everyone and really appreciate people for the little things they do to make you smile. I hope when I grow up I’m at least half the person she is.

SW: What would someone be surprised to learn about you?                

KM: People might be surprised to learn that I am completely unable to keep a surprise a secret. I sent my mom flowers a few weeks ago as a surprise and was so excited that I couldn't wait for her to get them and managed to ruin the surprise over FaceTime the night before they were supposed to be delivered. She thought it was hysterical…but really, no one should ever ask me to plan a surprise party.


Central MA College Standout is a weekly feature that profiles college and university students in Central MA. Join us every Tuesday for a look at the careers and lifestyles of today’s local college student. If you have suggestions for a profile, email [email protected].

Susan D. Wagner is president of Susan Wagner PR, a boutique public relations firm invested in meeting client's goals with integrity and creativity.


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