Human Hearts Capture Her Heart

Scholarship recipient’s career path inspired by grad students

January 13, 2020

Dannyelle Donahue knew at 14 that she wanted to become a medical devices inventor. Today, her ambition remains strong. She’s a junior majoring in biomedical engineering (BME), vice president of the BME Society, workshops director for the University of Minnesota chapter of Engineering World Health, and a research assistant at the Visible Heart Laboratories through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.

The following are edited excerpts from a conversation with Donahue, who receives the college’s Steven L. and Karen L. Crouch Scholarship and the University’s Florence Goodrich Sinclair Scholarship.

How did you choose your major?

I liked building stuff, so my mom thought I should try an engineering camp at the University of Minnesota. I remember these grad students showing us slices of rat brain and all the brain simulation research they were doing to combat the effects of Parkinson’s. It was really neat. I didn’t know this was a real thing—that you could invent medical devices. I never thought about it as a career before.

What’s it like to be here?

I get to see my sisters all the time! Sydnee is studying biology, and Dannica just arrived. She’s in BME too. Also, Minnesota is big for cardiovascular technology, and I’m interested in this field. I had internships at Medtronic the past two summers.

Did you enjoy the experience?

Yes, I worked in manufacturing the first year, then research and development. I’m really, really lucky I got to intern there. If I didn’t, I would have been waiting tables again to pay my rent and food over the school year. Getting to do something that’s relevant to my field will help me get a job later.

Do scholarships help?

My sisters and I have both large and small scholarships, which all add up to make it possible for us to attend the University. I don’t know if I would have been able to go to college without this support in my first year. [Younger sister Dannica is a CSE 3M Diversity Scholarship recipient.]

Tell me more.

Scholarships are really important to our family. My mom was young and went to law school while she had me and Dannica. She’s a public defender for people who are incarcerated. There’s not a lot of money in that, but she’s amazing. She’s got a work ethic like nobody else I know. I helped a lot growing up—waiting tables, being a nanny, paying my own expenses, and watching my sister all the time. We moved from Wisconsin to be with my stepdad [a Carlson School graduate].

What are your future plans?

As a member of Engineering World Health student group, I get to participate in a national design competition to create low cost medical alternatives. We learn how to take things from here [the United States] and strip them down to their bare components, and make them functional for places that lack the modern resources we have. In the future, I would really like to design a medical device that could be used in low income countries to make healthcare more accessible.

>> Learn more about the UMN chapter of Engineering World Health at

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