College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Outstanding senior fall 2019 – Courtney Smyth

Courtney Smyth

Major: Mechanical engineering

Minor: Biomedical engineering

GPA: 4.0

Hometown: Solon, Iowa

Career goal: Work in a clinic as a CPO (Certified Prosthetist/Orthotist) to help patients in regaining their mobility, as well as being a lecturer/faculty member for one of the prosthetics and orthotics master’s programs across the country.

Clubs/activities: Honors Program Student Ambassador, Biomedical Engineering Society, Emerging Leaders in Engineering, Society of Women Engineers (SWE), FHP Leader

Awards/honors: Dean’s list, Top 2% of engineering class

Favorite place on campus: Right outside the front door of the MU. You can see the fountain, campanile, Iowa State University stone wall, and all of the trees on central campus as they change colors for different seasons. Standing there looking out at campus always reminds me why I love Iowa State.

Most influential ISU mentor: Gloria Starns. Freshman year, she was the first person that I felt truly believed in my ability to be an engineer, even when I didn’t. She pushed me to challenge myself and has helped me in so many ways over the past four years. I know I can go to her for advice or just to chat, and I don’t think I would have ended up where I am without all she has done to help guide me. 

Why Iowa State: You can get the most out of college career here.


Smyth was nominated by Mindy Heggen and the rest of the mechanical engineering academic advising team.

“It can be extremely difficult for a student in a major of 2,200+ students to stand out in a positive way,” Heggen said. “Courtney has been one of the few that has been able to make an impact.”

Smyth has been very involved around campus and the Ames community, working as a Student-Athlete Tutor/Mentor, Special Olympics Unified Partner and being an active member of the University Honors Program.

Within the University Honors Program (UHP), Smyth is a student ambassador and was a First Year Honors Program seminar leader in 2016, which she considers her greatest accomplishment at Iowa State.

“Creating a fun class to help students adjust to ISU and being there to listen or answer any questions was such a wonderful experience,” Smyth said. “I loved being able to help them grow and it really heightened my desire to work closely with people in my career.”

She started conducting undergraduate research with the help of the UHP’s First-Year Mentor Program in the Hashemi Lab. She worked with graduate research assistant Rajeendra Pemathilaka on cell culturing of the human umbilical vein endothelial and human placental cells, as well as with attachment mechanisms of the cells to various permeable membranes. 

Smyth continued her research with Gary Mirka, John Ryder Professor of Engineering, evaluating the use of a neck strap on the thumb discomfort of clarinetists, and completed her honors project about her research: “Impact of Neck Strap Intervention on Discomfort, Force, and Muscle Activity of Clarinetists.”

Smyth has held multiple engineering internships, the most recent one being a design engineering internship at Percival Scientific, along with a mechanical engineering internship at Renewable Energy Group and a central fabrication internship at Amputee Associates.

These positions helped Smyth discover her dream of being a CPO (Certified Prosthetist/Orthotist). She is planning to attend a master’s program for prosthetics and orthotics to become a certified practitioner. She has interviews coming up at the University of Washington, UT Southwestern and California State, with hopes to begin summer or fall of 2020.