On the morning of our flight out to Costa Rica, way back in May, I was a bit of a mess. I had known this day was fast approaching, but I still hadn’t quite wrapped my head around the fact that I would be leaving Houston for the entire summer. I haphazardly tossed everything I thought I might need into some suitcases, said my goodbyes to friends and family, and prepared to embark on this journey with 7 strangers.
When I chose to join the GMI program, the Costa Rica experience was a huge draw for me. However, as the time to leave came closer and closer, I found my hesitation growing. The month of May was a whirlwind of emotion – I graduated from college, prepared for the huge changes that were to come, and moved to a new country, all within the span of a couple of weeks.
It was difficult to handle the magnitude of everything I was experiencing, and as a result I found myself feeling something I’m not very familiar with – fear. I like to consider myself to be pretty bold and daring, but during those weeks I found my nerves and hesitation getting the best of me. I knew I had chosen GMI for a reason, but I was also worried about whether the program was the right fit for me, and whether I would be able to succeed.
We arrived in Costa Rica and those first 24 hours were a whirlwind. I was surprised by how comfortable I felt in this new environment. Being in such close proximity with the other students, we got to know each other very quickly. I was surprised by how well we all got along, and over time I got to really understand and appreciate everyone’s unique backgrounds and insights. Dr. Richardson selected an awesome group of students for GMI, and working with them made the Costa Rica experience so much better. Having a strong support system was incredibly beneficial throughout the summer, and right off the bat I noticed how willing everyone was to go out of their way to help each other succeed. By the end of our first day in Costa Rica, my fears were all but forgotten.
Looking back on the summer, I think the most beneficial aspect was the amount of exposure I had to the field of innovation, implementation, and the medical device industry as a whole. A huge reason that I wanted to pursue a Masters degree in bioengineering was because I was looking for the opportunity to learn more about where I fit within this industry. GMI exposed me to every aspect of medical device development, starting from the very beginning of needs finding all the way through the regulatory processes. This was immensely valuable because it gave me the opportunity to discover my interests and how they can translate to the field, and also get a feel for which phases of the process inspire me the most.
This summer taught me a lot. From needs finding to project implementation to interning at Boston Scientific – everything we did had an important goal, and working towards it shed light on my strengths, weaknesses, and passions.
During needs finding, I was enthralled by the opportunity to work in hospitals with doctors, nurses, and patients who were as enthusiastic about our program as we were. Our collaborators in Costa Rica were more than receptive to our ideas, and gave us valuable insight at every step of the way. I really enjoyed the clinical aspect of this work. I loved being inside of hospitals, seeing procedures, and using my knowledge of engineering and design to identify where processes could be improved. I’ve always had a passion for medicine, and during these visits I really felt like I had found a niche that allowed me to blend my passion for medicine with my desire to design and create.
When we went to Guanacaste to work on DialOasis, I again faced new challenges that pushed me to develop as an engineer. When we selected our roles for the project, I really wanted to be on the design team so that I could improve my mechanical design skills. We wanted to optimize our design in order to make it easy to assemble, functional and as intuitive for the user as possible. This presented us with interesting design challenges. I had the chance to bounce ideas off of my teammates and learn from them. I learned that I really enjoyed the opportunity to be hands-on and learn through trial and error. Even just from this short time working on the project, I found myself thinking more and more about how design of even simple objects can be modified to improve assembly and usability.
Finally, the internship! The internship was an awesome way to learn more about the medical device industry and the different roles that engineers play throughout the development process. Through working in Process Development, I had the chance to take on my own project from the earliest stages and work with other engineers. I sought guidance from more experienced employees, and learned how to communicate my ideas and questions in a professional setting. I also brushed up on my technical writing, and learned how to sift through huge stacks of documentation to identify relevant information. The internship broadened my technical skill set as well as my soft skills, and these abilities will be critical during the coming year as I take on GMI projects, grad school classes, internships, and job searches.
Since returning to the US, I’ve found myself missing Costa Rica a lot. This summer was one of the most formative experiences of my career as a student, and it was only the beginning of GMI. I am so excited to work on implementation and design projects for the next year, and I can’t wait to see where these projects go. I truly feel blessed to be a part of such an inspiring and inventive program, and to be surrounded by students, professors, and collaborators who are so driven and talented.
Houston has always been my home, but this summer I found another home in Costa Rica. I will be forever thankful for this summer and all of the opportunities, friendships, and knowledge it gave me. Pura Vida!