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Grit, gratitude, glory define BW student's path to groundbreaking roles

Some challenges seem unsurmountable. Others lead to defining moments of clarity, resolve and insight that propel an individual forward to shatter barriers and achieve success. For Kyla Koos '25, it all started with a beloved father and a journey of confident determination.

Koos presented her work at Cleveland Clinic's undergraduate internship graduation ceremony and intern poster competition as part of the Clinic's Discovery Accelerator Summer Internship program.

"I am a first-generation student that grew up in a low-income area. My father tragically passed away in a drunk driving accident the week before I began high school. My three younger brothers and I quickly had to adjust from our lifestyle with divorced parents and attending a highly regarded school district to living without a father and immediately enrolling in a low-income school, where I was regularly bullied," explained Koos.

"My freshman year of high school in Elyria, my teachers refused to put me in an accelerated STEM track. But by senior year, I was taking Calculus II at a local community college, Calculus-based AP Physics classes and AP Chemistry," she noted.

IBM Quantum and Cleveland Clinic researcher

Koos' aptitude for STEM fueled a passion to pursue it at college and as a career. The Choose Ohio First STEM Scholar is majoring in physics and applied mathematics at BW. She is also the founder and president of Women of Knowlton, an academic organization focused on supporting underrepresented groups within the field of STEM. Additionally, Koos has joined other cocurricular groups and immersed herself fully in her studies.

Her penchant for research provided her with two exciting opportunities during her first year of college. As a research assistant under the supervision of BW physics professor Dr. Ed Meyer, her study of why Cleveland Velodrome riders stick to the walls of a track without slipping led her to presenting her findings at the Science of Sports Conference. A summer research fellowship at an Ohio college also provided data for scholarly presentation at a meeting of the American Physical Society.

Koos at a summer fellowship at an Ohio college.

"At BW, I gained countless invaluable connections and skills," said Koos. "Through the rigorous physics department, I developed my problem-solving stamina and abilities, which have given me an edge at each research experience and internship I've had.

"The flexibility of BW's physics program enabled me to complete an independent study on quantum computing with the department chair, Dr. Peter Hoekje, during my second year of college. This project was a great stepping-stone to securing a competitive research position with IBM Quantum and Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute," remarked Koos.

Standout student on quantum computing

As a participant in Cleveland Clinic's Discovery Accelerator Summer Internship program, Koos stood out as an ambitious, talented and hard-working student whose knowledge of quantum computing made her a go-to person in the lab where she worked.

"I accepted an offer from the Lerner Research Institute's Biomedical Engineering Department, where I worked in Dr. Xiaojuan Li's lab, which focuses on exploring and developing advanced musculoskeletal imaging techniques for a range of orthopaedic and rheumatologic disorders," explained Koos.

"Little did I know that I would be the quantum computing expert in my lab and the only undergraduate Discovery Accelerator Intern completing a quantum computing project," she went on to say. "Alongside Drs. Brendan Eck and Richard Lartey, we developed and implemented an unsupervised machine learning algorithm to segment areas of interest in Magnetic Resonance Images (MRIs).

"I was given the opportunity to network with IBM Quantum professionals, engage in limited-access quantum computing education opportunities and present my original research to management, researchers and physicians. Due to the success and overwhelming support of my research, I was offered the opportunity to continue my research at Cleveland Clinic with full support from IBM Quantum," she added.

"Today, I am engaging in three quantum computing projects. First, we are trying to improve the accuracy of our segmentation algorithm, but we have upgraded it to where it can segment 3D images. Second, we are attempting to develop a method for modeling MRI physics and pulse sequence interactions with the human body using quantum computing. The final project involves improving and editing Cleveland Clinic's quantum education materials, which are used to help other research groups and employees get engaged with quantum computing," said Koos.

"Prior to this internship, I knew I had a passion for scientific programming and quantum physics. I wanted a career path with both aspects and one that would give me a strong sense of purpose. That being said, I'm thrilled to be pursuing an exciting career that involves developing quantum-based software tools to support medical research and help people in need," remarked Koos.

Committed to wrestling


For Koos, breakthrough moments don't just happen in a research lab. She is also interested in joining Baldwin Wallace's NCAA women's wrestling team. In pursuing this path, she gives heartfelt honor to her father.

"I'm thrilled to join this varsity sport,” exclaimed Koos. “Since elementary school, I grew up wrestling with my father, who was a state-ranked wrestler for multiple years in high school. I always wanted to wrestle, but my plea was shot down by family members who thought I would be better off in more 'feminine' co-curriculars.

"Once I heard of BW's new team, I knew that I had to try it out. Being a part of the wrestling team not only challenges me physically, but off the mat, it is a great application of physical mechanics. For example, understanding that lowering a wrestler's center of mass can make a takedown more challenging for the opponent or analyzing how the body should be positioned for a move are extremely important for competing," said the scientific-minded student.

"My experiences growing up were not ideal. But, I worked hard to inspire my family and to ensure that my future family can live a comfortable life. My mother is working on completing her bachelor's degree, two of my siblings hope to attend BW with stellar grades and co-curricular involvement, and my other brother with mild-to-moderate autism is exploring vocational programs and independent living after graduating high school after only taking one extra year in elementary school. Attending BW was one of the best decisions I have made to help propel my future," she emphasized with earnest reflection.

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