Write an essay where you tell us about what drives you in your pursuit of your graduate degree.

During college, I majored in chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, but I explored different areas. I volunteered with hospice and cared for the terminally ill (which helped me discover the true definition of compassion); I taught organic chemistry and biochemistry (which helped me overcome my fear of public speaking and helped foster my love for teaching); I worked in a computational chemistry lab (which helped me discover my passion for research); and I started interning as a personal trainer (which helped me discover my passion for fitness).

After receiving my bachelor’s degree (Phi Beta Kappa, with university and research honors), I entered graduate school in the exercise sciences at San Diego State University. During this time, I started co-writing an exercise book, “Weight Training Without Injury!” I eventually founded my own publishing company and published the book. The book has been featured in Choice Magazine (as a top 75 community college title) and has won 22 book awards.

After receiving master’s degrees in exercise physiology and nutrition, my passion for biomechanics led me to USC’s Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy. During my first year, I was introduced to a movement screen, which had been created to quantify an athlete’s risk for knee injury (ACL). Inevitably, it was my idea that this movement screen required distinct criteria to distinguish between high and low-risk movement patterns, and this is how my future PhD project was born. Successful completion of my dissertation has the potential to change a lot of lives, as an ACL injury can be devastating to an athlete’s career and can lead to long-term complications, such as osteoarthritis and chronic knee pain. My present work will form the foundation for my future career dedicated to solving related and other complex problems aimed at improving healthcare.

Rachel from California
University of Southern California