Volunteer Spotlights

Rhiana Rivas biomedical engineering undergraduate

Rhiana Rivas, SEAS '18

Rhiana is a junior majoring in Biomedical Engineering from Albuquerque, New Mexico and the student group founder and President of Sci-Inspire, a new organization that matches students with volunteer opportunities in K-12 schools.

She first volunteered at PS 154, Harriot Tubman Elementary School in Harlem, during the pilot of Sci-Inspire two years ago. She wanted to work with young students who may not have had the opportunity to discover engineering and become a mentor to younger students.

She now hopes Sci-Inspire can become a cornerstone of Columbia's outreach programs in STEM, as it has a lot of potential to reach underrepresented minority students in the area. Her goal for the program is to have a large impact on the achievement gap in the surrounding community.

Brandon Zimmerman, mechanical engineering phd student

Brandon Zimmerman, Mechanical Engineering PhD Candidate

Brandon is a third year PhD student in Mechanical Engineering advised by Dr. Gerard Ateshian. He is originally from rural Pennsylvania and received his Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Delaware in 2013. He is an avid volunteer for our Engineering Speaks Program, which gives student and faculty engineers from Columbia the opportunity to inspire local students in K-12 schools.

He started outreach as an undergraduate, helping other students pursue graduate STEM degrees. He has continued this commitment to outreach at Columbia Engineering, serving both undergraduates and now middle and high school students.

Teachers and students are wowed by Brandon's exceptional presentation, each asking him to return again. He captivates the students with his inspiring personal journey into engineering as a first generation high school and college student. He then introduces complex engineering topics to students of various ages, making a subject that normally goes over the students' heads more digestible and understandable. The climax is a demo and hands-on dissection, meticulously showing every interested student the different materials and processes involved. 

Brandon enjoys teaching and is excited to continue inspiring students. He will be presenting at the Bronx Center for Science and Math in May.