Lily Hadavandifard

Engineering a future

Decades from now, when members of the millennial generation have ruined their knees with flip flops, wedges and extreme sports, the surgeons performing their knee replacements could very well be robots. JCCC student Lily Hadavandifard could very well have designed those robots.

Hadavandifard, an honors student at JCCC, wants to study biomedical engineering, a science that creates equipment for use in the medical field.

Even though using robotics inside the operating room is already a reality, Hadavandifard sees a day where robots perform complicated operations without the help of a human surgeon – completely unassisted by the human hand.

Think it’s science fiction? “There are a lot of things people could not even imagine that are now reality. Cell phones, for example. Who would have seen that coming, and yet look at how we use them today,” she said.

Her work with the honors program is setting up a foundation for her biomedical engineering career. She’s taken honors contracts in Calculus I, II and III, opting for practical application of problems and theorems she’s learning in class.

In one project, she used calculus to estimate the materials needed to build a dam. When given the opportunity, she would rather work on a series of math problems than write a paper.

“I love math, but I don’t like writing. I will always choose to do problems,” she said.

However, when she did have to write, such as in her Composition I and II classes, she used the opportunity to research surgical robotics. Hadavandifard had been volunteering at Shawnee Mission Medical Center, and she realized her plan to become an engineer could be put to good use creating hospital technology.

Hadavandifard grew up in Tehran, Iran. As a child, she waited for her family’s visa to be approved for the eventual reunion with her two uncles and aunt already in the Kansas City area.

The wait took 10 years, but on Oct. 22, 2009, Hadavandifard came to America for a better life. “The quality of life here – and the whole view of human rights here – is just so much better,” she said.

As an example to the power of the American dream, Hadavandifard said she had started out working at her uncle’s restaurant when they first arrived in the U.S. Then she snagged a job at the ultimate American hangout, McDonalds. From there, she got a job at Abercrombie and Fitch. She left that position to work at the Math Resource Center (MRC) at JCCC. There, she shares her love of math with other students for 13 hours a week.

“All of that, from my uncle’s restaurant to the MRC, happened in only a year. That would never have happened [in Iran] in a lifetime,” she said.

Hadavandifard has aspirations to transfer to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and she’s working to make sure all of her basic classes are finished at JCCC before she gets there. From there, she’d like to get a master’s degree, maybe even a doctorate degree, in biomedical engineering.

“I have always loved school – and homework,” she explained. “I have always wanted to come home and finish it early, just so I could I do other things.”