For Elliot Djokic, earning degrees in both biomedical engineering and chemical and biological engineering meant balancing a full class load, laboratory work, internships, a resident assistant position in the Engineering Academic Village and a job at Colorado State University’s computer repair center. It also gave him a rare opportunity to watch an open-heart surgery for coronary artery bypass and a leg amputation.
“My rotations through neurosurgery, cardiology and orthopedics were the most interesting because I was able to see a wide variety of surgeries,” Djokic says. “The surgeons were very communicative throughout the surgery and told me what they were doing.”
His internship with UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies last summer was an immersive program where he worked with nurses and doctors who rely on biomedical technology. Djokic spent a week with biomedical and clinical engineers learning about medical devices and interactions within a clinical environment.
Many of the concepts he learned in his engineering classes overlapped with practical applications at the hospital. In one case, an anesthesiologist discussed how to bring a patient’s low heart rate back up, reminding Djokic of his coursework.
“Principles from the fluids mechanics class that I took a few years ago resurfaced,” Djokic says. “The conceptual pieces were important, and I thought it was neat to see that the things I learned had practical applications.”
Research and modeling
At CSU, the Grand Junction native has also worked in several labs across campus, gaining valuable research experience from faculty who have dual appointments in the School of Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.
After working on anti-malarial drug modeling in the lab for Associate Professor Brad Reisfeld, he now does research modeling for Assistant Professor Brian Munsky. He has been working on modeling translation, where messenger RNA is decoded into proteins, and the effects of the RNA sequence on the process.
Much of his research work is computational, which overlaps well with his other job at the help desk and computer repair center of CSU’s Academic Computing and Network Services.
“I think the main overlap is the problem-solving aspect, which I really enjoy,” he says. “This piece of code isn’t working or this computer is not displaying — then narrowing down what feeds into the endpoint I’m looking at and isolating each section. I think it’s that way for any problem-solving issue that you have.”
Djokic’s determination to balance so many things will lead to his graduation as an Honors student this month, earning full degrees in biomedical engineering and chemical and biological engineering. While he finds neurosurgery and orthopedics interesting, he is open to finding new ideas in medical school that further his interests.