More broadly, Haikalis has worked with the nonprofit organization #Fight4HER to support health empowerment and rights. She learned grassroots campaigning skills so she could help overturn legislation that prevented bodily autonomy for people all around the world.

Support system

Haikalis says she could not have accomplished all that she has without the support of her loved ones.

From her “incredibly loving and caring” partner, Julian Caceres, who helped her heal psychologically, to her family, including her 99-year-old grandma and many loving aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, to advocates and mentors at ASU, she has valued a robust support network behind her.

Haikalis’s mom, Susana, is her “biggest hero.” She defended her daughters from an abusive father and persevered to teach them the importance of respect and love.

“She had a very hard life, and she has worked harder than anyone I know,” Haikalis said.

Susana was one semester away from completing her own degree in chemical engineering when she lost her funding, so her daughters’ education is very important to her.

Haikalis’ elder sister, Michelle, has also been a source of inspiration. As a psychologist working in research and academia, Michele studies the bystander effect and the role of alcohol in sexual assault. She was the first in the family to complete college and earn a doctoral degree. Haikalis says Michelle has given her “big shoes to fill.”

“My sister is incredible! I look up to her as my role model,” said Haikalis, who also completed a minor in psychology. “She went through a lot in life and was the first person in my family to break through many boundaries to accomplish a lot of things.”

At ASU, Assistant Director of Academic Services Jessica Meeker has been a dedicated and caring biomedical engineering adviser and ally who was “interested in learning the perceptions of others and adapting to be more accepting of all," Haikalis said.

And in Assistant Professor Schaefer, Haikalis has found an impactful mentor who encourages her to work toward obtaining advanced degrees and pursuing an impactful career.

A bright future

After graduating this spring with two bachelor’s degrees, Haikalis will continue her studies at ASU to earn her master’s degree as part of the Fulton Schools 4+1 accelerated degree program.

She then plans to pursue a doctoral degree and work in research and academia. In particular, Haikalis wants to serve in the field of sensorimotor research and brain-computer interfaces, which enable prosthetics or other devices to be connected to the brain and generate sensation and restored abilities. She’s fascinated by the possibility for people to use these interfaces and devices to completely relearn abilities and regain independence.

“I hope to make a difference and improve lives everywhere I go, especially through the use of my research. I hope to work with brain-computer interfaces, giving freedom back to quadriplegics, paraplegics, and people who have locked-in syndrome,” Haikalis said. “I truly believe in equality for all and never intend to stop advocating and fighting for those in need.”

Monique Clement

Lead communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering