Athena Pagon

Class of 2023

Even as her whirlwind first year on campus was cut short by the COVID-19 crisis, Athena Pagon ’23 didn’t slow down for a minute.

As a dancer, choreographer, and budding biomedical engineer, Pagon kept pace with her coursework remotely while continuing to engage with a range of extracurricular groups, including the Caribbean Students Association, the National Society of Black Engineers, and Orchesis, a student-run dance organization open to lifelong performers and newcomers alike. With her spring semester complete, she’s now finding time to tutor the next generation of STEM students.

From her home in Jamaica, the rising sophomore took a moment to reflect on her first year as a Columbia Engineer.

How did dance lead to your interest in Biomedical Engineering?

I’ve had a good number of minor injuries throughout my dance career and thanks to a curious nature and some very patient doctors I’ve gotten to learn about structures of the body and a lot about the biomechanics of what your bones and connective tissue can and cannot do. Consequently, I’ve become very interested in this area of biomedical engineering—for instance, how we can advance prosthetics to go beyond those limitations and how we can repair and synthesize cartilage, ligaments, and bones.

Why Columbia Engineering?

I didn’t want to choose between science and the arts. I wanted a school that highlighted not just the analytical but also the creative side of engineering. That was a big selling point of Columbia compared to other schools, and I knew Columbia Engineering would allow me to combine my passions.

Dance has always been a part of my identity and being able to continue it in college was another deciding factor for me. I’ve been able to not only continue dancing, but to explore different styles, explore my creative side in choreography, and get to be part of a loving and inclusive community.

You’ve mentioned looking forward to conducting hands-on research in the BME labs back on campus. What’s your favorite thing about the discipline right now?

One of my favorite things about biomedical engineering is how interdisciplinary and far-reaching it is. The possibilities honestly feel endless with this major, and I am so excited to see where I eventually end up in the future—but not really in a rush because there are so many nooks and crannies I want to explore.

Student Spotlight

I didn’t want to choose between science and the arts. I wanted a school that highlighted not just the analytical but also the creative side of engineering, and I knew Columbia Engineering would allow me to combine my passions.

Athena Pagon
Class of 2023