Unless you are the rare person who will spend their career championing ethanol, building three-foot-tall wind turbines, or trying to solve UB's parking problem, you will need to extract the ideas from the specifics so that one day you can use them; not only to build a bridge, program electronics, or design a heart valve, but to build the RIGHT bridge, program the RIGHT electronics, or design the RIGHT heart valve."
What types of work have you performed? What projects have you worked on?
Developing enhanced visualization tools for endoscopic pancreatic procedures to improve access to care in rural Indian hospitals.
Performing final usability studies for manual intraoperative autotransfusion of patient blood during open surgery in low resource settings
Product development and investigational testing of a new Total Hip Arthroplasty (THA) femoral implant
Management of cross-functional teams and their timelines to ensure the successful launch of new Total Hip and Knee Arthroplasty (THA and TKA) implants
What have been some favorite aspects of your work?
Working with surgeons and stakeholders to identify true unmet needs and unforeseen usability issues in order to ensure that the teams I am a part of are creating solutions that will not only solve patients' problems but will be intuitive for medical professionals to successfully use in the process.
What was one of your most satisfying days as an engineer?
I was part of a team doing an ex vivo animal study (aka working with pig intestines) on a prototype of a device we were developing. We spent weeks on failed experiments. There were early morning drives to collect samples from a certified slaughterhouse. There were afternoons spent monotonously preparing test setups that didn't require an ounce of engineering skill (beyond an attention to detail). There were nights spent adjusting equipment and hardware in a small blacked-out lab, wondering if the problems lay with our equipment, our environment, our methods, or just our idea. Then, one morning (or afternoon, or night, it's hard to tell when you've blacked out the windows) we finally had results. My two teammates and I didn't even believe it at first. Over hushed whispers (that seemed to match the dark room we were in) we didn't dare believe each other until we had run the test two more times. Then whispers became cheers. The work paid off. The idea had merit. A proof of concept could be shown. You feel like you're on the precipice of the end of the project and the illumination of a breakthrough shows that there's not a cliff but a long stretch of road ahead and maybe, just maybe, what you're working on might be able to help somebody someday. The confirmation that that hope was still alive makes everything before worth it.
Was it worth it? What has your engineering background made possible for you? What value has it added to your overall life?
Of course. Every day I am doing my part (sometimes small, sometimes slightly larger) to help medical devices reach the market. Once they are out in the world they will ease pain and/or extend life (or give a greater chance at it). This is most exciting when it's in new and unique ways, but even solutions that aren't world-shattering in their novelty don't take away from the fact that someone will be helped by what I contributed to creating. Knowing that I can have that impact on the health and well-being of another human makes my work, for me, just about the best way I could imagine using my working time.
What would you say to the first-year students currently sitting in your shoes?
Small groups! Go to them! Yes the homework help is nice and the practice is good, but dig a layer deeper past the present utility to the structure of what you're learning. More than just a "what kinds of problems are there on the Chem I Exam", you're learning how to see patterns and structure. You're learning how to boil any topic down from countless specific examples to only so many core ideas. If you walk out with that toolset, then you have something to apply to every class for the rest of college (because, believe it or not, there will be classes harder than Calc II).
BUT, if you stick with me one MORE layer deeper, this kind of pattern-seeking and "looking behind the veil" can help you begin to develop some tools that you can use for the rest of your life. When classes are over and the real-world hits and you're faced with your first problem in which the person who asked the question also doesn't know the answer and there isn't an solutions key to download online, you have to go looking for information, finding patterns, and condensing results on a whole different scale.
You'll practice this with real-life examples outside of Small Groups too. It's part of what is so great about what this year will bring to you. However (minor spoilers), unless you are the rare person who will spend their career championing ethanol, building three-foot-tall wind turbines, or trying to solve UB's parking problem, you will need to extract the ideas from the specifics so that one day you can use them; not only to build a bridge, program electronics, or design a heart valve, but to build the RIGHT bridge, program the RIGHT electronics, or design the RIGHT heart valve.
I hope this program will be for you what it was for me: not just a first-year intro class, but first-year foundation for everything that has come after it to date.