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Margaret Guo named 2016 NCAA Woman of the Year

MIT graduate is first in school history to receive the award

The 2016 NCAA Woman of the Year is Margaret Guo, a former Massachusetts Institute of Technology swimmer with dual degrees in electrical engineering and computer science, and biological engineering. Guo received the award Sunday at the annual awards dinner in Indianapolis.

Since its inception in 1991, the Woman of the Year Award has recognized graduating female student-athletes who have distinguished themselves in athletics, academics, leadership and community service. Guo is the first MIT student, 12th swimmer and fourth Division III student-athlete to receive the award in the 26 years of the award’s history.

“I’m still kind of in disbelief,” Guo said. “It’s just such an honor to be able to say that I am the NCAA Woman of the Year. It just reflects the amount of support I’ve had and the people around me who have pushed me to become better than I could have been by myself, and I’m just blown away.”

In the pool, Guo competed for the Engineers’ 200-yard freestyle relay, 400 freestyle relay, 400 medley relay and 200 medley relay teams. Throughout her collegiate career, she earned five All-America honors from the College Swimming Coaches Association of America, and an additional six all-conference accolades. In 2016, Guo and her relay teammates set New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference records in three events, and Guo qualified individually for the Division III Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships.

“My senior year in the 400 medley relay, we got the highest that the school has ever placed before,” Guo said. “I remember going in and trying not to think about the expectations, just going out there and swimming my hardest, and the results were way better than I could have ever imagined.”

Guo graduated in May with a perfect grade-point average. A Rhodes Scholarship finalist and Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award recipient, Guo also was recognized in 2015-16 as the College Sports Information Directors of America Women’s At-Large Academic All-American of the Year for Division III student-athletes. In 2015, her strong academics earned her the NCAA Elite 89 Award, now called the Elite 90 Award, which is presented to the student-athlete who exemplifies competing at the highest levels academically and athletically by earning the top GPA of those competing at the finals site of a national championship. She earned three academic all-conference nods from the NEWMAC.

“It was definitely a tough experience in terms of trying to balance the rigors of athletics and academics at the same time, but I think that my biggest achievement at MIT is learning how to think like a scientist,” Guo said. “In one of my classes we collaborated on an engineering project, and when you’re working in a team and trying to solve real-world problems, that’s definitely something that I’ve learned and will carry on at Stanford right now.”

Guo seized opportunities in college to pursue her interests in engineering beyond her classroom requirements. She participated in the Amgen Scholars Program and worked as a Griffith Lab researcher in MIT’s Center for Gynepathology Research. She also worked as a Keel Foundation Research and Innovation Scholar in MIT’s Computational Physiology and Clinical Inference Group. She co-authored two scientific studies.

She was also active in the MIT Society of Women Engineers, holding various leadership roles in the organization throughout college, culminating with serving as president her senior year.

“Being president of the Society of Women Engineers at MIT was really enriching and rewarding,” Guo said. “The goal is to inspire younger generations of women to go into STEM fields, which historically have a lack of women representation. It’s so great to both inspire these younger girls to spark their interest in science, but in turn, I’m also so inspired by them and the passion that they show.”

Guo, a San Diego native, is working on her doctor of medicine and doctor of philosophy at Stanford University and already is making her mark in the biotechnology field. She currently has two patents  – one that is published and one that is pending – in medical technology: sensing and atrial-synchronized ventricular pacing in an intracardiac pacemaker, and systems and methods for predicting adverse events and assessing level of sedation.

“Swimming is intrinsically connected to exercise and physiology and the human body,” Guo said. “That’s one of the reasons why I’m going into medicine. Just being aware that every single position matters, every single detail matters, and every single little effort will come together for a final goal, that’s what makes the difference in swimming. It’s the same in the research field. It’s the same when you’re in the lab, trudging day to day, and you don’t see what the end result is, but it’s those bright, rare shining moments – like breaking school records – it’s those moments that give purpose to everything. There are so many parallels between athletics and academics.”

The NCAA Woman of the Year Selection Committee chose the nine finalists from the Top 30 national honorees. From the nine finalists, the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics, composed of representatives from NCAA schools and conferences, selected Guo as this year’s NCAA Woman of the Year. The event Sunday in Indianapolis celebrated the Top 30 honorees, who had been selected from a pool of 142 conference nominees.

To be eligible for the award, a female student-athlete must have completed eligibility in her primary sport by the end of the 2016 spring season, graduated no later than the end of the summer 2016 term and achieved a minimum cumulative grade-point average of 2.5. Last year’s NCAA Woman of the Year was Kristin Day, a diver from Clarion University of Pennsylvania.