Along with tuition support, 3rd-year BME student has had access to professional development and company executives
Lela Ellerbe says she knew from a very young age that she wanted to change the world.
Now the company PeproTech is joining her in that journey, selecting the third-year biomedical engineering student for its first Diversity Scholarship. The award includes mentoring and professional development opportunities in addition to covering Ellerbe’s tuition and room and board. And she said it has freed to her focus on achieving her dreams.
“College is very expensive, especially as an out-of-state student, and finding way to pay for it is not something you can push to the bottom of your to-do list,” Ellerbe said. “Winning this scholarship alleviated some of that worry. I am now able to focus on getting good grades, volunteering more, and being more mindful of my college experiences.”
In practical terms, that has meant devoting time to seminars, conferences, and other networking and development opportunities, Ellerbe said, including some that have come with PeproTech’s own professionals.
Ellerbe has participated in virtual lunches with company managers and learned about the different cytokine products PeproTech produces for research labs. She also traveled to the company’s New Jersey headquarters for a tour and meeting with their president.
PeproTech started the diversity scholarship “to foster a more equitable and inclusive future — within our own walls and in the greater scientific community,” according to the company. From the outside, the company said the recipient would “demonstrate great passion and potential in the sciences, with an interest in pursuing a career in the field.”
Ellerbe found out about the scholarship from Professor Manu Platt, who has become a mentor and sounding board for her. She met Platt through GT-ESTEEMED, a federally funded program that supports and develops undergraduates from historically underrepresented backgrounds during their first two years of college.
For her part, Ellerbe said she’s looking forward to establishing a career built on connections and a problem-solving approach with a holistic view. She said conducting research as an undergraduate and working as an intern has shown her how fragmented the research and health sector can be sometimes.
As she put it: “Everyone wants to focus on solving their piece of the puzzle while they completely miss out on the bigger picture.”
She said that has focused her attention on how important it is to couch her biomedical engineering knowledge in the relevant contexts, from regulation and intellectual property law to logistics, distribution, and storage.
“I want to be a part of the new generation that changes a single-minded approach and pushes for people to have a more holistic view so that they can see how their [work] affects the whole system,” Ellerbe said.