When she was eleven years old, Saundra Quinlan rode on a roller coaster for the first time. The experience transformed her life. The thrill of the moment was supplanted by a fascination with the physics and design of these contraptions, and a career in engineering was born.
Saundra’s love of science and math prompted her to undertake an arduous daily commute from her home in Queens to the Bronx High School of Science, where she ranked in the top 10% of her class and was active in student government and athletics. While her Social Studies teacher viewed her as “a human dynamo…whose energy knew no bounds” and her AP United States History teacher admired her ability to do everything “with enthusiasm and integrity,” Saundra was learning time management skills. “I had to learn to prioritize,” she recalls.
At the age of 16, Saundra was admitted to MIT’s summer enrichment program in science, engineering, and entrepreneurship (MITE^2S). In this intensive and competitive program, she was the top physics student in her class and received the award for the “most outstanding female.” Seeing MIT close up influenced her decision to accept the school’s early offer of admission.
Elected student government president at the Bronx High School of Science, Saundra devoted her considerable talent and energy to the office. She is the rare individual who simultaneously sees the big picture and attends to details. Her leadership teacher described her as “charismatic, charming, and organized.” In other leadership roles, Saundra served on the Bronx Superintendent of Education’s Advisory Council and the Chancellor’s Student Advisory Council for New York City High Schools.
In her last year of high school, desiring to play a positive role in her community, Saundra volunteered as an Auxiliary Police Officer in the New York City Police Department. “I hoped that my participation could contribute to restoring the faith my community and my peers have in the NYPD,” she told the Selection Committee. “Perhaps, if the neighbors see me in uniform, a young woman who does not fit their stereotype of a police officer, they will think twice about their preconceptions.” People who know Saundra well were not surprised by this. Her thought processes are at once logical and bold; she is the kind of person you would want to design your roller coaster.