College of Fine Arts, School of Music

Melissa Requist, Class of ‘21
Hometown: Steamboat Springs, CO
Majors: Biomedical Engineering and Music Performance

“In the arts, having diverse perspectives is important, and equally important in engineering. And you need the same imagination to create new software or a new device that you need to create new music.”

“I grew up in a really small town—a great town. Ski town. I actually grew up doing ski jumping and Nordic Combined,” explains senior Melissa Requist. She also started playing the flute in the fifth grade, which progressed into honor band and all-state orchestra. She recalls, “During the four-hour drive home after these festivals, the whole time I could only see myself doing music. I felt I couldn’t give it up going into college.”

Melissa applied to Arizona because she is a National Merit Scholar. But she decided to enroll when Arizona was the only place that supported her goal to major in both biomedical engineering and music. “I’d been doing college tours and most places I went, when I said I want to double major in biomedical engineering and music, their first reactions were things like, ‘No, that’s crazy,’ or ‘You can’t do that.’ I came here, and we were at the Honors Slonaker building, and they said, “Yes, we had someone do something just like this.”

Since she’s been here, she says, “The Honors College has been fantastic. It’s also really great to have a community there of faculty and students there who understand my experience a little better.” In addition to working in a lab with testing orthopedic devices and properties of bone, and interning at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center this past summer working on the biomechanics of people after amputations, Melissa was asked to present her research at the 2019 Biomedical Engineering Society national conference.

“My future goals are to pursue a MD-PhD—a medical degree and a PhD in biomedical engineering,” she shares. “Along with that, I’ve been working these last couple of years to really connect my music and engineering undergraduate degrees. I’m planning my Honors theses right now in studying the biomechanics of flute playing and looking at how it relates to injury, frequency, and hopefully in the future, be able to make recommendations for injury prevention in musicians.”

For Melissa, “Wonder makes me design. To me, the processes I use in engineering, when I’m looking at something and asking ‘how can I fix this?’ are really similar to how I create music. And it’s that curiosity and imagination that I think is incredibly important in the arts. But I see it being exactly the same in engineering. I’m creating something in my mind that doesn’t exist yet and I have to see how it fits into the world.”