Arrika LaSalle
Arrika LaSalle

Hometown:  Kalispell, Montana
Major:  Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering

One of the most striking things about Arrika is the way her face lights up the moment you mention one of the many and varied projects in which she is involved. She loves what she does and can’t wait to share it with the world.

No stranger to hard work

Arrika LaSalle is a first-generation college student from Kalispell, Mont., dual majoring in Chemical and Biological Engineering. When asked how that feels, she replies “It’s exciting and I feel like I’ve earned it. I knew it would be a lot of work, but that it would be worth it.”

She’s no stranger to hard work, however. In seventh grade she built a Van De Graaff generator that she used to teach upperclassmen about electronegativity in technology as well as winning the science fair. Her working model is still used annually by her science teacher. This project led Arrika to the discovery of mass spectroscopy, proteomics research, and the world of disease cure and prevention. Today, she is one of the few MSU undergraduates leading proteomics engineering research, “a dream come true.”

Passions for art and community

But Arrika doesn’t just have a passion for engineering; she also has a passion for art and for her community.

She has created an art consulting business, modeled for fine-art photographers, copy-edited a novel and much more. Currently, she manages exhibits in the Healing Arts Gallery, a non-profit that brings uplifting artwork to the walls of medical centers to help with the healing process.

Arrika has also worked with the Big Brothers Big Sisters here in the Gallatin Valley where she designed, tested and led a series of workshops that engaged the young participants in science experiments to educate and inspire them. From this first trial run, she was able to write an official lesson plan that included experiments, take-home projects and educational materials. 

Finding balance

One might think that being so active outside of school would be tough while doing any college degree, let alone a dual engineering degree. Some may wonder how she balances it all, but for Arrika, these extra activities are actually what provide her balance.

For her, “If you are exhausted with one, you need more of the other”. She is fascinated by the beauty that can be found in this world, and that’s not just limited to an art gallery or nature, “I find myself in class commenting that something is ‘a beautiful design.’”

Trust your voice and abilities

So what advice does Arrika have? "When you are choosing a class, a degree, or any opportunity, trust your own voice and abilities above all. Your path may be the one less traveled by. When the road ahead is long, look back at the ground you've already conquered and be strong. Then face your present challenge and let yourself enjoy it. When it comes down to it, there's nothing you'd rather be doing."

Future plans

The undergraduate research experience has recently inspired Arrika to consider graduate school.  She hopes to continue to meld her passions for engineering and art, eventually working in biomimicry, biomedical engineering, or bioremediation.