Former MDA Summer Camper designs accessible spaces and devices
Allie Williams, a 25-year-old who lives with Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease, earned her master’s degree in biomedical engineering from Texas A&M University in 2017. Williams always knew she wanted to help individuals with disabilities, but it wasn’t until her junior year of high school that she found the right fit.
“At first, I didn’t even know biomedical engineering was a thing,” she says. “I really liked science and math, and I thought about being a doctor, but I realized quickly that I don’t like blood or anything like that. I was looking for how I could help people with disabilities, and I came across biomedical engineering.”
Her first inspiration to help people with disabilities through engineering came from her experience at MDA Summer Camp.
“I started going to camp when I was 8, so seeing myself and all the other kids getting to do what they wanted to do — there were literally no limits,” Williams says. “That’s why I went into biomedical engineering. We always say ‘Camp is the best week of the whole year,’ and I want to make it like that for us all of the time.”
Williams studied biological engineering at Louisiana State University (LSU) for her undergraduate degree, where she was first introduced to the ways her work could help people with disabilities. As part of her first class in the subject at LSU, Williams and her classmates met with local representatives from area schools and designed accessible playgrounds. After the class ended, Williams’ professor hired her to work on the same project and get the playgrounds built.
“We took the comprehensive designs from the classes, and we wrote grant proposals so we could build the playgrounds,” says Williams. “That was where community engineering came in, making sure it’s an inclusive environment. That’s really my dream, working on design, whether it’s a medical device or an inclusive or universally designed playground, that will improve the quality of life for those living with neuromuscular diseases.”
Williams hopes to start a nonprofit organization to design and build inclusive playgrounds someday. But for right now, she is focusing on her job as a research and development engineer at Exothermix in College Station, Texas. In this role, she uses technology to solve problems such as reducing contamination of stem cells used for stem cell therapy. When she’s not working or visiting her hometown of Baton Rouge, La., Williams likes to spend time enjoying the natural beauty of Texas.
“I got a dog when I moved here, so we go to the dog park every day,” she says. “And we go on walks. There are a lot of nature trails and things like that here, so we like to hang outside.”
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