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Gabriel's Story

The desire to help those who have lost limbs brought Gabriel Jimenez to Case Western Reserve.

While in high school in his native Puerto Rico, Gabriel felt pulled in two directions. He loved the logic and structure of engineering, yet found the complexity of the human body equally compelling.

Then he visited a rural community far from his home, where he saw people missing arms and legs because of accidents.

"I thought if somebody were to make a better design, a cheaper design ... for prosthetics," he said, "that could really help them out a lot."

Founded in 1968, Case Western Reserve's biomedical engineering department was among the first in the world. A family friend knew the university's reputation, so Gabriel included it among the schools he considered. Ultimately, he applied to Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Boston University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Case Western Reserve.

Even if he won admission, though, it didn't mean he could enroll on the mainland. His family's finances were such that he needed significant scholarship assistance; even loans would be too large a burden.

Gabriel's parents doubted any of his choices would provide the kind of aid package he would need to attend. The University of Puerto Rico represented a far more realistic option—but it didn't offer biomedical engineering. Gabriel didn't want to give up on his dream.

In August, Gabriel journeyed from San Juan to Cleveland. He's begun studying the field he wanted to pursue. And he's already begun to adapt his approach to the prosthetics; now he plans to make them lighter and less expensive. It's all happening thanks to the aid award the university offered when he won admission last spring.

"The scholarship is the key [that opened] the door,"" he said.

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