A New Family
Before getting onto the plane from Chapel Hill, NC to Houston TX, I did not know what to expect. The only impression of my 11 soon-to-be classmates I had was through GroupMe discussions about housing or Rice University’s mandatory health checkup. On top of that, I’d only skimmed the LinkedIn of our new director, Dr. Will Clifton, who would be an invaluable mentor this upcoming year. When my plane took off, I was headed straight for a mess of uncertainties I knew I couldn’t predict. The days leading up to this flight were full of endings and emotions. I had just graduated from UNC Chapel Hill that spring after four years of making unforgettable memories and irreplaceable friends. I felt excited, a little anxious and calm. Sure. Things would go wrong… we were destined to run into problems, but we, as engineers, solve problems for a living. From the moment we stepped down in Houston (and then Costa Rica), this manifested itself in various forms.
While I reflect on these past two months, it is strange to realize how my first impressions and expectations shifted so dramatically. Specifically, in regards to my new GMI family. A little over two months ago, none of these other ten 20-something-yea- olds were very significant to me. Now, we were a team. Here are a few of these unpredictable outcomes:
(1) Annie was the first person I met at our Airbnb. She would later be my roommate and support system for our two months in Costa Rica.
(2) Christine was the second person I met. She would later become my fellow project lead for our implementation project, MilkyWaves.
(3) Sylvie was the last person I met at orientation. She would later become my irreplaceable teammate and friend at Boston Scientific where we tackled challenges in medical device development.
Aside from learning about medical devices and global impact, developing our GMI team was, perhaps, the largest outcome of our trip.
Wrapping things up at Boston Scientific
I’ve continued to make progress on my projects during my final days at Boston Scientific, but I’ve also been preparing to pass along my projects to the Boston Scientific supplier and process development teams I’ve been working alongside this summer. Sylvie and I have been making more of a conscious effort to include my BSCI team in our meetings, emails and experiments so that there is a smooth transition once we’ve left.
To continue with this “unpredictable” theme, my experience at BSCI was definitely unpredictable throughout the internship. Engineering is a career which needs creativity and problem solving to find solutions and this internship taught me more than just technical skills. I had structured my time and work from the beginning of the internship, which allowed for me to reach a point where I was satisfied with my work. In addition, I had defined my projects and used the support and guidance of my BSCI team to complete them. Every day, I was constantly challenged to take initiative, ask questions and grow my network. In other words, Costa Rica gave me more than an introduction into medical devices; it allowed me to learn the professional interaction needed within the medical device industry.
Designing for Impact
The other goal of our time in Costa Rica this summer was to begin exposing ourselves to designing medical devices for low resource settings. The short course was one of my favorite activities regarding this goal this summer. Those five grueling, quick-paced and rewarding days gave me my first taste of designing for low resource settings, such as rural areas in Costa Rica. In addition, we worked with students from local universities or with engineering professionals allowing us to learn more about the local culture. On that note, I am excited to have Guiselle and Jorge on our team for MilkyWaves this year. They are both very invested in the project and willing to help Christine and me as we push our device through its first clinical trial. I know their insight will be extremely helpful throughout this process.
I do wish we had more time to work on our implementation projects while we were here this summer. It is obviously difficult to balance both our internships and our exposure to medical device development in low resource settings. The time I did get to spend shadowing in hospitals, interviewing doctors and learning about my newly assigned implementation project made me even more excited to return to Rice’s campus and begin work. I am extremely confident that MilkyWaves has the potential to create a huge positive impact on many premature babies and their families and I can’t wait to continue designing for this impact.
The End of Chapter 1
My time in Costa Rica has taught me so much and I am truly grateful for the experience. However, as I close this chapter of the GMI program, I know there is so much left to learn. Here are a few of my lessons learned this summer:
- Extend your network. Talk to your team and department at your internship AND to anyone else with any relevance to you. A lot of my projects began or grew because I wanted to learn about how other departments at BSCI fit into medical device development as well. I learned a lot by simply asking questions and reaching out to employees who weren’t in my immediate network. I was able to provide a Supplier Engineering perspective when working with Process Development Engineers.
- Have open communication. Whether it’s with your classmates, coworkers or director, it’s so important to talk about your frustrations, doubts and successes. More often than not, someone is experiencing the same thing or has some useful advice. Everyone around you has relatively similar goals and experiences, so it’s important to take advantage of this knowledge and support.
- Be productive during your downtime. Downtime is inevitable during these two months, so spend your time researching interesting companies, programs, and people, and get inspired. While I am still unsure of my future career, I feel I have a better grasp of what is out there and how I could fit into it.
- Take advantage of every free weekend: Zip lining and surfing are a must
Onto the next chapter and I’ll see you again soon Costa Rica! Pura Vida