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Student Spotlight: Cody Messick

Mechanical Engineering senior Cody Messick has a passion for doing anything and everything to help others. For the Shanghai native, this currently means preparing to go from medical assisting, MCAT tutoring and mechanical engineering to medical school at the Mayo Clinic.

Messick’s brother studied mechanical engineering here at Brigham Young University, and it was that example, along with Cody’s own gift for math and physics, that led him to the major. He was excited to go into mechanical engineering because it was an opportunity to be creative and problem solve. However, after interacting with people on his mission and an EMT class after he returned home, Messick felt drawn to the medical field.

“I felt like I was really fulfilled by the aspect of my mission that was interacting with people that have a lot of very diverse backgrounds and life experiences, and especially the element of catching people in the middle of their trials and struggles,” Messick said.

Despite his change in career plan and trajectory, he ultimately chose to stay with mechanical engineering. As he progressed through the major while also taking pre-med courses, he saw crossover between the two disciplines in several of his classes.

“We were learning about how the brain sends signals to the muscles, and I was programming my micro-controller in a very similar way, and it's like frequency-based encoding,” Messick shared. “The same equation that we derived from fluid mechanics showed up in my physiology class about blood through the veins and arteries and the friction and resistance due to that. It's really interesting to see all those connections, so I continued with both because I saw that it was actually not a hindrance but an advantage.”

He has found several ways to mesh the two disciplines on his own as well that allow him to continue helping people in the ways he wants to. He has been doing research on foot mechanics with Dr. Bruening in exercise science for the past year, and chose a Capstone project with a humanitarian focus.

“I think engineering for humanitarian projects is not only fulfilling but very fun. I love being able to go in and understand the problem from a cultural perspective as well, and oftentimes with humanitarian projects, you have to put yourself in someone else's shoes who is very different from you.”

The Capstone project Messick is working on makes large scale manufacturing processes available at a local, small scale level to cut down the cost of shipping and taxes.

“I have loved my group,” Messick said. “We all are so motivated and so determined to do this well and do this right, I think a lot of it is because there is accountability from the fact that we will be going to Ecuador in May. That motivation makes for great group dynamics. That experience of being able to go and actually implement our product has made the difference.”

On top of school, Messick works as a medical assistant, an MCAT tutor, and skis and climbs several times a week. In order to have time to get everything done, he focuses on the things he’s passionate about, because he’s learned that you always make time for the things you want to do.

“I'm not the most organized person, but I put these priorities first and things fall into place,” Messick said.

Despite engineering in the traditional sense not being the end goal, several elements of Messick’s path are things he feels have prepared him to become an influential engineer.

“For a while, I actually was considering doing bio-mechanical engineering, and I kept up all these pre-med classes because I knew that either way, it would help me become a more influential engineer because I would have a background and knowledge and things that other people wouldn't,” Messick said. “Additionally, working as a medical assistant, an EMT and a CNA brought a lot of perspectives for what consumers need in the medical field, so essentially educating myself through experiences different from a traditional engineering field was incredibly helpful for me to become an influential engineer.”

Long before entering the program, Messick was getting experience to help him gain the skills needed to be an influential engineer. He spent a summer in Western China helping schools get access to clean water by helping distribute water filters. Initially he wanted to go in and build an app, but he learned that wasn’t the answer, and that focusing on the people instead of the solution was the solution.

“Especially when you talk about engineering, I think it goes beyond someone that has the technical ability to produce a product,” Messick said. “I think that it also includes a social component, a social responsibility component of it too, where you have the ability and the power to make pretty significant changes.”

The first Tetra ski competition at Powder mountain that Messick attended was a powerful example of where technology can come in and make change. University of Utah students created a ski that would allow people that have higher spinal cord injuries to operate a ski with the tilt of their head, making it so the physical impairment was no longer a disability.

“Coming in with a perspective of understanding what it means to have a physical impairment versus a disability, and having experiences in diversity with people that are marginalized in your quiver is incredibly impactful for being an influential engineer,” Messick said. “It can direct the focus of a project, and provide purpose behind what you're trying to accomplish.”