On Track

OSU undergraduate accepted into summer biomedical program in Switzerland
Marsha Lampi running past downtown Portland

Marsha Lampi brings the discipline of a long-distance runner to her research in bioengineering as well as to OSU cross-country and track. (Photo: Jan Sonnenmair)

By Nick Houtman and Darryl Lai

Marsha Lampi runs for distance – 5,000 or 10,000 meters in track, 5,000 or 6,000 meters in cross-country. The former Lincoln High School student from Portland enjoys pacing herself but is always looking to improve. “I usually think, if only I had done this or that differently, I could have run a little bit faster,” she says.

This summer will take the Oregon State University athlete, a junior in bioengineering and the University Honors College, further than she has ever gone, at a pace that surprises even her. She is one of two-dozen students from around the world who have been accepted into an eight-week internship at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (known as the EPFL) in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Lampi will work in the Hubell Laboratory, which specializes in research on biomaterials, drug delivery and tissue engineering. It’s a great fit for a student who is setting her sights on med school or biomedical research.

Lampi’s laboratory experience at OSU has prepared her for the challenge. Last summer, she worked in OSU’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute undergraduate research program on a subject of great interest to runners: the fluid that lubricates knees, hips and other joints. Under guidance from Willie “Skip” Rochefort, associate professor of chemical engineering, Lampi looked at how proteins in this so-called synovial fluid affect its ability to help joints absorb shock.

She credits Rochefort and the College of Engineering for giving her the opportunities and academic support she needed to qualify for the Swiss program. “Dr. Skip has been there every step of the way to help me,” she says. “He made me think about the big picture.” As a result, she developed the confidence to apply to internship programs (Berkeley, Stanford, MIT and EPFL) that she didn’t think would accept her. No worries: She got into each one.

“I chose to do research at the EPFL because of the international opportunity of working with people from around the world,” she says. Although she speaks fluent Spanish, she is looking forward to learning new languages and the by-ways of an unfamiliar country.

Rochefort says that Lampi is one of the best students that he has mentored at OSU. “She has the talent to go a long way and the desires to make an impact on people’s lives, both with her research and as a role model in both her professional and personal lives. She is possibly the most disciplined and organized student, with a huge capacity for work, that I have met in my 17 years at OSU!”

Lampi has served as a mentor for other students in high school and at OSU. In her own family, she looks to her older brother (an engineer) and sister (in med school) for inspiration. “They showed me I can do whatever I want,” she says.

Despite her new surroundings, Lampi will continue to work on her running in preparation for the fall cross-country season. And she’ll have additional support through her coach, Kelly Sullivan, and the OSU Athletics Department, which has arranged for friends to meet her in Switzerland.

To support student scholarships and the University Honors College, contact the OSU Foundation.

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