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The Intersection of Ambition and Hard Work

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The Intersection of Ambition and Hard Work

Valerie Johnson

In the world of being both a student and a collegiate athlete, young adults have to find and accomplish feats both on and off the court every single day. To do so, athletes like junior libero Devan Taylor must maintain high levels of discipline and hard work. Devan, a driven and accomplished biomedical engineering major, is balancing her ambition of achieving greatness in all aspects of her life one opportunity at a time.

As the Spring, Texas native enters her junior year, she has had the opportunity to work on multiple inquiry projects through the engineering department. These have included working alongside Prisma: Orthopedic Implant Retrieval Lab (REPRO) to help develop a viable Implant Retrieval Program and pursue hypothesis-driven research related to orthopedic implants with the goal to provide a working repository for retrieved orthopedic implants and to develop the tools and techniques for the systematic evaluation of implant designs, materials, surfaces and function.

Another impactful creative inquiry Devan has worked was under Dr. John DesJardins within Clemson’s Bioengineering department. Devan and fellow classmates collaborated with BMW to address a pressing issue faced by BMW’s assembly line workers. The workers were suffering from joint pain and arthritis due to manually inserting plastic inserts into the interior of the cars during production. This dilemma was impacting the health and wellbeing of each member on the assembly line. The challenge was to find a solution that would improve the workers’ ergonomics and enhance their overall well-being.

Devoted to their task, Devan and her group embarked on a journey of innovation. They designed, developed and tested nine prototypes, each aimed at assisting the workers in inserting the plastic components. Through meticulous pressure testing using tech scan sensors, they refined their designs to identify the most effective solution. The ergonomic wearable body plug assisted those working on the assembly line by reducing thumb related injuries for at risk line associates by creating a low cost, minimal impact on-line solution that reduces force on thumbs by a minimum of 50 percent and maintains necessary efficiency during plug insertion. Their relentless dedication and hard work eventually paid off as BMW implemented the prototypes on their assembly lines, reducing worker strain by minimizing repetitive task tissue injuries and optimizing production efficiency.

For Devan, being part of this project was not just about academic achievement; it was about making a real impact on people’s lives. As a biomedical engineering major with a specialization in biomechanics, she found fulfillment in using her skills to create tools that improve people’s physical well-being. The ability to combine her passion for biomechanics with her engineering expertise was a source of great joy and a reaffirmation of her career aspirations.

As a student-athlete, Devan faces the unique challenge of balancing rigorous coursework in biomedical engineering with the demands of collegiate volleyball. For her, discipline is the cornerstone of her success. Whether it’s preparing for an exam or perfecting her skills on the volleyball court, she approaches each challenge with unwavering focus and commitment.

Devan’s experiences on the volleyball court have taught her valuable life lessons that she carries beyond her sports career. She emphasizes the importance of slowing down and appreciating the present moment, a lesson she learned during the team’s 2023 summer foreign tour. In the fast-paced world of academia and athletics, taking time to acknowledge and savor life’s experiences became an invaluable lesson in mindfulness. Traveling with her teammates and coaching staff through three different European countries over the course of 15 days allowed her to savor the moments that were created both on the court and in the moments spent touring Paris, enjoying the water in Croatia and ATVing through Bosnia.

Beyond just being a student-athlete, participating in Clemson’s POWER program – a one-of-a-kind professional development program for Clemson’s female student-athletes – provided a series of immersive experiences during the 2022-23 school year and summer that focused on career development and supplied Devan with valuable insights into her professional aspirations. Getting to participate in eight sessions during the year and traveling to Chicago in June to bookend the experience allowed her to create connections away from the court. As she enters the biomedical engineering industry, she envisions herself working on designing and innovating medical devices, particularly knee implants and replacements. Her goal is to contribute to advancements in the field and to collaborate with surgeons to implement these life-changing devices effectively.

As a student-athlete, Devan challenges the misconception that academic rigor and athletics cannot coexist harmoniously. Her professors’ understanding and support have shattered any notions of a lack of flexibility for student-athletes. Rather than facing resistance, she has been met with empathy and accommodation, reinforcing her belief in the importance of a balanced approach to life.

Devan Taylor’s journey exemplifies the transformative power of discipline and hard work. As she surpasses the halfway point of her collegiate volleyball career, she is excited about transitioning into the professional world. The experiences gained as a student-athlete have instilled in her the work ethic and resilience necessary to thrive in the biomedical engineering industry. And so, the driven young woman who once aspired to be a successful volleyball player now stands ready to make a meaningful impact in the world of medical technology, fueled by the unyielding drive and passion for innovation that has defined her path thus far.