Saugus High School graduate Elizabeth Baca described her senior year as “very eventful, to say the least.”
After wildfires threatened her community, followed by a school shooting, then a global pandemic, Baca said each event impacted her.
“It honestly just really made me open my eyes, in a way, to show that we really aren’t invincible,” Baca said. “A lot of teenagers nowadays really do believe that nothing can harm them, but seeing other people get hurt like that is crazy.”
More so, each event hardened her resolve to continue pushing herself to pursue her dreams of entering a career in which she can truly make a difference in the world.
Baca has always been creative and artistic, skills she believes when bridged with her knack for science can allow her to pursue those dreams, which is why she plans on majoring in biomedical engineering and minoring in musical theater.
“When I think up ideas, I can put pen to paper and draw it,” she said. “My goal is to take these ideas and use engineering knowledge to develop new real-life, cutting-edge technologies and medicines that will advance and benefit mankind. With my degree, I want to help develop new treatments and maybe even a cure for cancer.”
Her hard work is starting to pay off, as she enters her first year at Ohio State University with not one, but two scholarships, including NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Employee Exchange Council 2020 Joseph A. Walker Memorial Scholarship.
“I am extremely excited and grateful to win this scholarship to help me get one step closer to my dream,” she said.
It was Baca’s father, John, who is branch chief of the NASA Armstrong Engineering Systems and Technology Division, who not only helped her to realize her potential, but also in receiving the scholarship, which is awarded to children of NASA Armstrong employees.
“My dad has helped me a lot when it comes to figuring out exactly what I wanted to do and showing me that engineering wasn’t just the technical part of making things but it also had a creative side to it,” Baca said. “I want to apply engineering principles to develop new technologies and let my creative side meet my analytical side.”
For John, who considers his daughter as much artistic as she is analytical, being awarded the scholarship was a culmination of her hard work.
“That’s all a parent wants is their children to have a chance in life, and she’s trying to do everything she can to create those chances,” John said. “I think she’s amazing, both inside and out. She is very dedicated to everything she does. … Her senior year was so tough. It’s hard to keep motivated when you get everything taken away from you, but she has.”
As Baca enters college with two scholarships under her belt, she plans to take her first steps toward her goal of one day curing cancer, a dream that is near and dear to her heart as cancer runs in her family.
“I just know how it affects people,” she added. “I’ve seen what it can do firsthand and not everybody understands that. … It really truly is something that is inspiring to me.”
With medical innovations happening more and more as technology advances, the idea excites Baca.
“Biomedical engineering has the potential to help people with their health and daily lives,” she said. “Even 20 years ago, we weren’t as far as we are today, but currently, it’s possible. I fully believe that it is possible to cure it.”