Dream school for College of Science and Engineering student

A Q&A with 3M Impact and WISE Medtronic Scholar Dannica Donahue

Feb. 24, 2023

When Dannica Donahue was accepted to the University of Minnesota and started classes on the Twin Cities campus nearly four years ago, she checked one box off her dream list.

“I felt a sense of belonging when I toured,” said Donahue, a biomedical engineering (BME) senior with a minor in business. “It’s been my dream college since in high school—and the University of Minnesota has been a great home for me so far.”

Donahue, who grew up in Plymouth, a suburb 10 miles west of downtown Minneapolis, came to know the University through family members. Her stepdad is a Carlson School graduate and two of her sisters are recent alumni, Dannyelle (BME ’21) and Sydnee (Biology ‘19). She also got the chance to meet a few College of Science and Engineering professors and researchers before she became a Gopher. In 2018, she attended the 3M-supported Discover STEM summer camp for students entering 11th and 12th grade. 

In this Q&A, Donahue—who receives the 3M Impact Scholarship and WISE Medtronic Scholarship—talks about her involvement with student organizations and internships, and she shares a few lessons learned at the University of Minnesota.

How did you choose your major, or what drew you to it?

I wanted to learn more about engineering medical devices to change people’s lives because of an interaction at a Minnesota Girl Scouts camp. I was a Girl Scout and attended the camp at Elk River each summer until I was 18. I was a camper for six years, junior counselor for three years, and an adult counselor for three years.

As a counselor, I led activities for 10 girls in a unit for five days. In my last year, there was one girl in my group who told me about how she had hydrocephalus, which is a condition where fluid builds up in the brain. She used to have terrible headaches amongst other symptoms, but then she got surgery to implant a shunt to drain the fluid. It was great to see the shunt had changed things so much for her that she was able to go to camp for the first time. I even got to meet her mom, who expressed how happy she was that her daughter got to experience camp without any pain.

Also, my older sister was already at the U of M studying biomedical engineering. So my experience at camp was a confirmation for me to follow down the same path.

What’s it like to be here?

I have learned so much, met great people, and joined leadership teams in student groups. I live in a house with six other girls. So...

... there’s never a dull moment!

I love to go to Gopher football games, go for walks to Stone Arch Bridge, and hangout with my friends in Dinkytown.

What student groups are you active in?

I’m the president of Engineering World Health (EWH) at the University of Minnesota, a community development director for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) chapter, and a leader of the Physician Inspired Engineering Solutions (PIES) Biomedical Engineering Directed Research Program.

Over the years, I’ve served as the EWH vice president, chair of membership development, and member of both the design team that competes in building a low-cost medical device for the annual EWH national competition—as well as the e-NABLE team that uses CAD- and 3D-printing skills to build prosthetic hands for children in need.

For two years, I was a technical workshops director for SWE teaching members coding, CAD design, and 3D printing.

How has the 3M Impact Scholarship helped you?

I'm very honored to be a recipient of the 3M scholarship. My education has always been one of the most important things in my life, and it is a relief that I am being financially supported. This scholarship, and also my WISE Medtronic Scholarship, motivates me to do my best as well.

Why are scholarships important?

Scholarships have given me and my sisters the opportunity to study at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities...

... and I am endlessly grateful to all the individual donors and companies who generously support them. Scholarships have allowed me to focus more of my time and attention on my studies rather than having to balance several jobs with my difficult courses. I’ve also had the free time to be involved in extracurriculars that I enjoy.

What's a highlight of the school year so far?

I’m still so thankful to be back to in-person classes. I’ve loved my cancer bioengineering, entrepreneurship, and senior design classes. Recently, my senior design team was awarded a MIN-Corps MVP Challenge grant to develop our medical device prototype. So I’m super excited to see how the prototype progresses!

Any research or internship experiences?

I have really enjoyed being a peer mentor and undergraduate researcher in the Physician Inspired Engineering Solutions Directed Research Program through the U's Institute for Engineering in Medicine. I’ve worked with anesthesiologists at the University of Minnesota Medical Center and collaborated with two other biomedical engineering students to design, create, and test an Apple Watch app that monitors a patient’s vitals and gives vibration alarms to anesthesiologists while they are performing tasks.

Another highlight of 2022 was receiving return internship offers from Medtronic.

I first worked as a systems engineering intern for the Cardiac Rhythm Management division in summer 2021, and I continued as a contractor junior year. I served as an intern again this past summer. In my role, I assisted in evaluating a new pacemaker sensing model, assessed potential predictors of pacemaker implant success, and analyzed a variety of programming codes and clinical data.

What are your future plans?

After celebrating graduation, I want to finish my scuba diving certification and do some traveling. I want to start working in industry full-time to explore more, and I may go to graduate school. If a particular idea progresses well in the next few months, I’ll explore starting a business. The world’s my oyster!

If you’d like to support students and programs in the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering, visit our CSE Giving website.