Multiple Scholarships Put Pitt Within Reach

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Sidney Cannon-Bailey applied to nearly 20 colleges and universities, but once she visited the University of Pittsburgh, those other schools all faded into the background.

“I remember coming to Pitt and I was hooked immediately,” said Sidney who will graduate this spring with a bachelor of science degree in bioengineering and a minor in electrical engineering. “I told my parents this is my number one choice.”

However, with three siblings, including a twin brother, and parents who are both public school teachers in upstate New York, Sidney knew it was more realistic that she would enroll at a state school in New York rather than trying to cover out-of-state tuition at Pitt. But, thanks to past donors, Sidney earned enough scholarship funding to enroll at Pitt.

“The scholarships allowed me to go to the university that I love and to do amazing things while in school, including research and study abroad,” said Sidney.

“I wonder if I had not been able to come here if I would have achieved everything that I have accomplished?”

Sidney immersed herself in several undergraduate research opportunities including one in which she analyzed brain waves of primates as they listened to different auditory stimuli. In 2016, Sidney received an additional scholarship that allowed her to travel to Karmiel, Israel, to take part in a research abroad program. She worked in a biomechanical laboratory at Ort Braude College analyzing Parkinson’s hand tremors and creating a system that mimicked those tremors. That system was then used to test possible solutions—the most promising of which were assessed at a nearby nursing home.

“Seeing my work put to use in real patients right away showed me I was more interested in going into industry upon graduation rather than going into bench research,” Sidney said. “I have to thank Dr. Borovetz for setting up the program.”

Distinguished Professor and former Chair in the Department of Bioengineering, Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, and the Robert L. Hardesty Professor in the Department of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Dr. Harvey Borovetz, says jobs in engineering are becoming increasingly collaborative on an international scale.

Swanson School of Engineering
Sidney spent countless hours in Benedum Hall, home to the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering.

“Working in lab environments that are different than the labs at Pitt and being exposed to other ways of thinking cannot be understated,” the professor said, and Sidney excelled in this unique work environment for her.  “The work that she undertook utilized instrumentation and other laboratory equipment that was different than that found in the laboratories at Pitt; and Sidney adapted very well to this new laboratory infrastructure in her research.”

Sidney recently accepted a product development position at Philips Respironics in Pittsburgh and will begin work in May. Sidney believes the scholarship support she received is making it possible for her to reach her fullest potential. “I wonder if I had not been able to come here if I would have achieved everything that I have accomplished?”

She says she will soon start giving back to the University through annual financial gifts, and might even endow her own scholarship someday.

“When you are away from the school and focused on your career or retirement, it might be hard to see the impact that a student scholarship could make on someone,” said Sidney by way of encouragement to others to make such a gift to Pitt. “But without that scholarship help, it might be impossible for a high school student with limited finances to set the lofty goals they could someday achieve.”