Bio­engi­neer be­gan jour­ney in Dem­ing


DEM­ING — Shar­lene Flesher had never heard of bio­engi­neer­ing when she walked dur­ing the Dem­ing High School Class of 2007 com­mence­ment ex­er­cise. Now she’s headed down a ca­reer path that bridges the gap be­tween en­gi­neer­ing and medicine.

Flesher be­gan her jour­ney in Dem­ing as a three­sport Lady Cat ath­lete and mem­ber of sev­eral ex­tracur­ric­u­lar sci­ence clubs at DHS. She helped guide the 2005 Lady Wild­cat vol­ley­ball team to a 21-4 record and a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive state cham­pi­onship.

After earn­ing a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in com­puter en­gi­neer­ing from St. Mary’s Univer­sity in San An­to­nio, she be­gan work­ing to­ward her Ph.D. at the Univer­sity of Pitts­burgh.

Flesher was re­cently awarded a Na­tional Sci­ence Foun­da­tion grant for her re­search on a brain­com­puter in­ter­face that will al­low pa­tients with spinal cord in­juries and pros­thet­ics to gain feel­ing in their pros­thetic limbs. Flesher has ded­i­cated the past five years to re­search and work on the project and has made strides with two hu­man pa­tients dur­ing her work. The find­ings and work of the team was pub­lished in Oc­to­ber in Sci­ence Trans­la­tional Medicine jour­nal. Flesher says the work has be­come sec­ond na­ture to her.

“Once you start train­ing, you can’t turn that mode of your brain off,” said Flesher. “Com­put­ers are com­pli­cated but you can make them sim­ple with ones and ze­ros, so I thought, brains are the same thing — they’re com­pli­cated. Let’s see if we can pack it down to ze­ros.”

Flesher serves as a role model to the stu­dents cur­rently walk­ing the halls of DHS.

“Fig­ure out what you’re in­ter­ested in and there’s some­body who’s go­ing to pay you to do it,” said Flesher. “If you see a prob­lem you need to ad­dress, just poke around, ask some­body and even­tu­ally you’ll get the an­swer.”

Shar­lene Flesher

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