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The Faces of Opportunity Vanderbilt
Photo of Ariel Thorson

Ariel Thorson

Class of 2020, Friedkin Scholarship

Potassium ion channels, Fourier series, stresses, dynamics and statics—these are just a few of the things that pique Ariel Thorson’s interest. She’s also fond of volunteering, scientific research and cookie dough. In other words, she’s a typical, well-rounded Opportunity Vanderbilt student.

In high school, Thorson was considering a potential career as a medical assistant, but a guidance counselor steered her toward a biomedical sciences class. When considering colleges, she discovered Vanderbilt’s biomedical engineering major and a new world of possibilities opened for her.

“I really wanted to do more math and physics and chemistry—I didn’t want to focus on one thing,” she says. “I felt like that being in college, I should learn as much as I could.”

“I want to make a big difference and this has aligned me to do just that.”

Currently, Thorson is working in the Jacobson Lab in the department of molecular physiology and biophysics. The work is highly technical, but the end goal is to discover a drug that will benefit diabetics and help alleviate their symptoms.

Thorson is also involved with Engineering World Health (EWH), an international organization that encourages young engineers to improve global health. She serves as Vanderbilt’s service organization chair for EWH’s annual design competition. Last year, the team created a low-cost sterilizer using a pressure cooker and won third place.

Thorson learned about Opportunity Vanderbilt and its need-based policy when she received a brochure in the mail.

“I never imagined that I could go to a school like Vanderbilt,” she says. “I was really nervous about it because it sounded too good to be true, but then I got the letter that said I wouldn’t have to take out student loans. I could barely believe it!”

As a junior, Thorson truly realizes Opportunity Vanderbilt’s wide-ranging impact—and she’s also seeing what a difference she can make thanks to her education.

“This will prepare me and put me in a place where I can go on to do bigger and greater things,” she says. “I want to make a big difference and this has aligned me to do just that. I’m infinitely grateful.”