Student and Alumni Profiles
Samantha Muhhuku of Uganda, a freshman at Penn State New Kensington, is in a situation where she thrives and one that’s engineered for her success. Muhhuku is the first Ugandan to attend the campus, and she is the only female in the freshman class of the Biomedical Engineering Technology (BET) program, which is traditionally
dominated by males.
“It doesn’t matter whether I am in a classroom full of males or females because I believe that we all have an equal chance of excelling,” said Muhhuku, who lives in the Nittany Highlands Apartments, a campus-affiliated, privately-owned housing complex adjacent to campus. “It probably is a bit of an advantage to me though because I have to make sure I am always on top of my game, so I have to make sure my grades are always up.”
Muhhuku gravitated toward the New Kensington campus because of the BET program, one of only three accredited programs in the country. Biomedical technicians operate, maintain, troubleshoot and repair medical equipment.
“I originally wanted to get into dental surgery, but during the application process, with the help of my dad, I did a little bit of research about medical related courses,” said Muhhuku, who expects to earn an associate degree in 2014. “BET stood out as a very excellent course, so I decided to have it as my major. Penn State New Kensington is one of the best colleges in the profession.”
Muhhuku grew up in Kampala, the capital of Uganda and home to 1.7 million residents. She attended Uganda Martyrs Senior Secondary School, one of the country’s leading high schools. The 20-year-old was accepted originally into the Biomedical Laboratory Technology bachelor’s program at Makerere University, the largest university in Uganda. Had she enrolled at Makerere, 45 percent of her first-year biomedical class would have been female. She eschewed the comfortable surroundings of a big city institution of 40,000 students, and travelled 7,400 miles for the uncharted territory of the rural western Pennsylvania campus of 800 students.
“I needed to get out of my comfort zone and try out something new, build up a strong resume and have a feel of what life is like outside Uganda,” said Muhhuku, who is adapting to living so far from home. “Besides, Penn State New Kensington is one of the best colleges in the profession.”
Since matriculating in the fall, Muhhuku has found her comfort zone at the campus. She spends her leisure time participating in extra-curricular activities, watching movies and listening to music. Last semester she joined the theatre group as props manager for the student stage production of ‘The Glass Menagerie.’
“The hardest part is adapting to a whole new culture, and learning the do’s and don’ts of the new society,” said Muhhuku, whose hometown is the largest city in the country. “The best parts of campus life are the activities, like the games and movies. I have a great time at the campus.”
Higher education is a tradition for the Muhhuku family. Samantha is the second of seven children and her siblings include four sisters and two brothers. Her parents are college graduates. The father is a consultant for AGRA, a Tanzania-based company that specializes in sustainable agricultural growth for Africa. The mother handles the family assets and investments, and according to Samantha “makes sure everything is in order all the time.” The eldest sister will earn her bachelor’s degree this summer at Cardiff University in Wales. A younger sister recently graduated high school and is headed for college in the fall. The other Muhhuku children are still in high school or primary school.
After graduation, Muhhuku will continue her stay in the United States for a period of time to gain the training and experience in the biomedical field before embarking on an engineering career in her native country. She appreciates the support she is receiving from home and the campus.
“My family and friends have been very supportive in helping me achieve my dreams. I do not think I would get this far without them," Muhhuku said. “I would like to say thank you to everyone at PSNK who has taken interest in me and is making my stay here very pleasant.”
Muhhuku is one of a group of international students matriculating at the campus this semester. They hail from China, Ghana and India, as well as Uganda. Internationals are a growing segment of Penn State’s student population, and the New Kensington campus is doing its part in bringing in quality students from foreign countries.
The Republic of Uganda is a landlocked country located in East Africa. It is bordered by Kenya, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Tanzania. It gained its independence from Great Britain in 1962, and English is the official language.
"With this Biomedical Engineering Technology degree from Penn State you have the ability to do more than just get a job, you’re able to start a career in an ever changing cutting edge field. The academic plan for this degree is specifically tailored to give you all the necessary tools needed to be successful in the medical equipment field. From electronics to information technology, to customer service, you’ll learn it all. And whether you’re just coming out of high school or a returning adult learner, you’ll quickly see that this degree offers nothing but opportunities."
John Jorinscay - Class of 2009
Customer Service Engineer
SIEMENS Medical Solutions
"I graduated from Penn State New Kensington in August of 2009. I absolutely love working in this field. I was able to find a job one week after my internship ended, and I have had two job offers since I began working in the field. It is a field with endless potential for growth and opportunity. I am currently still working as an entry level biomed. It’s seems most companies are willing to send employees to receive further training on specific equipment as long as there is a need for the training. I currently have certificates for the Fresenius 2008K Dialysis machines, Level 1 training from Ditec, and a certificate for performing the PM’s on the SuperDemension InTouch Bronch System. Every day is different from the next where you might find yourself doing PMs for a day or being called into the OR during a case to fix a problem on a video cart. Many companies are now requiring that Biomeds become certified and I plan on taking the CBET this fall. The courses taken at Penn State New Kensington definitely hit every aspect of what the job entails and made me feel confident and comfortable entering into the workforce."
- Degrees and Majors
- 2-Year Biomedical Engineering Technology