Nov. 28, 2006
When Tessa Kuykendall was at Mercy High School in Brighton, Mich., she liked her math and science classes, listing calculus among her favorites. So she began looking at the best colleges in those areas at the same time the Owls were looking for a new middle blocker for the volleyball team. Fortunately for everyone, Kuykendall and Rice found each other.
Heading to Houston to start her collegiate career, Kuykendall knew she wanted to major in engineering, but was unsure in which field to specialize. Then she found bioengineering: a perfect blending of her love of mathematics and the natural sciences. Her decision was positively reinforced when she took a required lab on tissue culture and discovered her new favorite class.
"It's great," said an enthusiastic Kuykendall. "You learn how to grow cells, then you get to test the cells and see how they grow and differentiate. It really shows bioengineering applications. It's fun to have hands on experience and do work that I really could be doing in the future."
After finding her path, she joined the Rice Biomedical Engineering Society and serves as the Lovett College representative to the organization. Among its many services, the RBES plans guest lectures and organizes programs regarding applications of bioengineering in the work place.
Outside of her chosen field, Kuykendall has joined her teammates in volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and making visits to Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital. She also joined the Houston Rockets with their SAT Training Camp, which targets high school student athletes that will be applying to college.
This past summer, Kuykendall had another opportunity to expand her horizons, although to a degree she hadn't quite expected. She traveled to Aix en Provence, France for a six-week study abroad program, and, upon her arrival, discovered the person she was to stay with didn't speak any English. "I was immediately immersed in the French culture," said Kuykendall.
When she returned to Rice for her final season of volleyball, Kuykendall continued to make her mark on the court as well as the classroom for the Owls. She finished her career as Rice's all-time leading blocker and a three-time all-conference honoree while at the same time being recognized all four years for her academic achievements.
Now with her playing days behind her, Kuykendall is focusing on both her immediate academic demands, including the opportunity to join a research group in the spring, and setting her goals for life after Rice.
"I plan on getting a job in a consulting firm or any bioengineering industry job, save some money and then go to either law or business school," said Kuykendall. "I want to work with people and other bioengineers to help the information transition between medical doctors and bioengineers."
She is Tessa Kuykendall, and she is one of Tomorrow's Leaders.