Week 10: Learning From Others

This week I worked mostly on Project 3, creating and verifying a test method and test method validation protocol for colonoscopy devices. Since I only have one week left in Costa Rica, I wanted to make sure I made the most out of my time here at Boston Scientific. Unfortunately I can’t intern in every department at BSCI, so I arranged a couple short meetings with people in various departments.

One day I met with a project manager named Oscar and learned about his job at BSCI. A project manager is not an entry level position- it takes refined leadership skills, excellent communication among different departments, and significant foresight into the engineering process. To put into perspective, Oscar had worked at BSCI for 13 years before he was promoted to project manager. One question I asked him was a quality he would like to change when interacting with people on the job. His response highlighted some interesting habits he believes occur mostly in young employees. Oscar said they tend to wait to give bad news. However, if someone reported the problem immediately when it happened instead of sitting on it for a few weeks, the problem is significantly easier to handle. This example was one of the many perspectives Oscar shed light on in our conversation, and I greatly appreciated his time and words of experience!

Throughout this week I tested 65 colonoscopy devices on an Instron tensile test machine. The best part about long tests like these is the data. As soon as I finished a round of testing, I plugged the results into Minitab and ran some statistical tests on them. Once all testing was over, I summarized my results into a report and sent it to my team consisting of 2 coworkers, a manager, and an R&D BSCI employee in the United States. The purpose of the data I collected drove the team to make certain decisions about the protocols. Project 3 has been fun- I especially enjoy the collaboration among everyone and their discussions offer fantastic insight into the engineering process that I can’t learn in the classroom. At the end of the week, both the test method and test method validation protocols were sent off for approval. Once approved, I’ll be the author of my first test method validation protocol!

Boston Scientific also has English classes for their employees here at Coyol. The instructor asked the GMI interns if they could give a presentation so the class could hear native English speakers. I made a Powerpoint presentation and talked about myself, my family, and where I’m from (the great state of Nebraska). It was fun seeing the class learn and ask questions about the place I grew up, even though talking about home made me very homesick!

With one week remaining, I plan to work as far along into my projects as I can. I’m well on my way to finishing 2 of the 3 projects (projects 1 and 3). Project 2 is a long-term project that will last for the next 6 months. I’ve been very happy with my projects, and have learned so much in this internship- I’ll share those insights with you next week!

 

 

Pictured above- a slide in my presentation for BSCI’s English class, featuring one of my favorite places in the summer, fall, and winter.

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Week 9: A (Chan)ge of Pace

I am a fan of variety, and not just because people have tagged it as the spice of life. Variety is engaging, but it can also be random and unsuspecting. It keeps people on their toes. It has helped me get through this past week in several ways, but what other way to spice things up than to switch up my blog this week!

 

Chan-te’s Peak (a playoff of 1997 film, Dante’s Peak – a movie about volcanoes…)

So, after trying to edit the video at least four times over because my computer kept crashing from the data dump of video clips (all in the name of entertainment), here is a short reprise of our trip last week to Arenal! It was an absolutely brilliant experience seeing the volcano and exploring the area, but as we begin counting down the days before we set foot back in the United States, it’s the weekends like these that will make me miss Costa Rica that much more. This weekend we took our talents to Manuel Antonio, where we kayaked and relaxed at one of the most renowned beaches and national parks in Costa Rica. However, we stopped along the way at a notorious bridge where several crocodiles reside as gatekeepers underneath it. Do not be fooled though, crocodiles are vicious and will attack you (so please be careful), unlike their alligator predecessors, which are much friendlier.

 

All Quiet on the Southern Front (catching on yet?)

I have not really given many updates in the way of the GMI program itself recently, mostly because I have been so consumed with my work at Boston Scientific. However, as I was kicking back and watching Game of Thrones this past Tuesday (on a Costa Rican holiday, mom, so I’m not pulling a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off moment), we received an email from Dr. Richardson about our implementation projects for the year! Much of the groundwork has already been laid out in these projects, and depending on the project, it is our job to make final redesigns and to pass through the appropriate channels such as clinical trials to get our product out for patient use (hence the name, implementation).

This year, I will be working on Truvent, a project designed to improve compliance of bag valve masks, or BVMs. These hand-held devices provide ventilation to patients who are not breathing adequately. However, there are several issues currently surrounding this technology, namely for those who are applying the ventilation to the patient. For example, if they do not properly create a seal around the patient’s airway, or if they press on the bag too quickly, it can ultimately be detrimental for the patient. Therefore, we are working with a developing technology that can provide health care providers with a better knowledge of their actions to prevent further harm. It is an exciting device, especially when we consider the larger scale of people that need a better way of indicating if they are properly applying the right amount of force (in some developing countries, family members and inexperienced personnel will use these BVMs to save people, stressing the importance of proper compliance). I am really looking forward to starting this project once I get back to Houston!

 

Chan Man 3 (Iron Man 3…I admit this isn’t my best one but I’m trying here)

Now, back to Boston. In all honesty, it feels like everything we do in neuromodulation is something out of a Tony Stark movie, and I’m just trying to do my part to get it one step closer to just that. As I mentioned in the beginning of this blog, variety is important, and that is what has helped me get through this busy week. Keeping myself accountable for all my work, though, comes back down to documentation and keeping meticulous records of my work. It has not only helped me understand my current standing in a project, but it allowed me to manage my work and distribute my time accordingly.

While it was a short 3-day week, I mainly focused on testing. Upon converging upon ideas that I wanted to pursue, I developed and took my protocols and experimental setups to conduct my tests. Though I collected analyzable data for the following week, I also learned the importance of patience and resolve when applying my ideas. Namely, of the 10 or 15 trials that I aimed to complete, only about a third of them were utilizable due to mechanical difficulties or debugging issues. At a certain point, I could not figure out what was wrong, but after an hour of debugging, I discovered that some of the sensors had short circuited and influenced my testing results. It was frustrating, but I realized how much work goes into creating a good testing platform, and how every detail must be managed and addressed for everything to run smoothly.

It looks innocent now…

Additionally, if you can take the time to automate a process, do it. I had originally planned to take manual measurements for temperature readings along two different points of the device, but upon further discussion and some Python coding, Alejandro and I were able to automate the entire data collection process. This not only allowed us to record more accurate measurements, but it also freed up time for me to pursue other tasks.

To maximize my time while I was stuck or was waiting for a trial to conclude, I utilized the opportunity to work on my personal development goals. Aside from improving my documentation methods, I sat in on meetings with professionals that gave me a further understanding of the inner workings of a big company such as Boston Scientific. Though I am still interested in R&D, I can see myself pursuing other avenues that allow me to interface further with customers from a front-end side of a product, which can be achieved through marketing and sales, teaching clinicians about a product, or in many other ways. I have been having so much fun learning about it all, and that alone has made my time at Boston invaluable.

Now, as we head into our final days, I am excited to see how everything plays out. Remaining flexible has been a mantra here in Costa Rica and in my time at Boston, but ultimately, I need to reach the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the internship. I look forward to sharing my thoughts on how it all goes in the next blog, but until then…

Pura Vida mis amigos.

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Creating the Dream Job

Another week has flown by, it’s crazy to think that we have less than two weeks left here in Costa Rica. This past week was quite busy for me between wrapping up one project, starting another one, learning about career development, setting up meetings with various people to learn about Boston, and trying to squeeze in some travel outside of work. But “Pura Vida” right?

Just another casual Friday

I had a productive week because I turned in my deliverables for my project for review. The deliverables consisted of two technical reports that described the issues with the guidewire coatings, compared several guidewires, and defended my decision to apply the data from one guidewire to several others. This process of applying data from one product to similar products is called leveraging. It is a key tool in the medtech industry because often tests are expensive and time-consuming to conduct, especially clinical trials on human subjects. Thus, since many product changes are minimal (such as the color or length) or similar to other products (such as the material or manufacturing processes), leveraging can be a useful tool to ensure FDA compliance without reiterating costly experiments. However, even without experiments, lots of paperwork has to be filed to leverage a product. The products must be proven similar in all relevant aspects with evidence and engineering logic to be leveraged. That is where my technical reports come in. I was able to leverage five new products from two existing ones. Currently, my reports are under review by my coworkers. Once we have worked out any flaws, the reports will be integrated into the Boston database where they will reside until the end of time. Thus, I will have fulfilled one of my goals for this summer of adding value to Boston.

New catheter and cutter project

I also gained a new project this week. I will be working on a catheter and cutter combination. The fundamental idea behind this device is that the catheter is used to position electronic lead wires in the heart. Once these wires are positioned, the catheter is removed. This is tricky because the wires are threaded through the catheter so moving the catheter may reposition the wires. This is where the cutter comes in; the catheter is sliced away while the wire is held in place much like a letter opener. The project itself is similar in concept to my previous leveraging project, but deals with the design change of only one product. So in this case, I will be more or less leveraging the older version of the product to prove that the newer version is safe and effective. This requires a different type of report called a DCAF (Design Change Analysis Form). To complete this comprehensive form, I must review every facet of the device to determine what aspects and product specifications are affected by the change. This may seem simple, but there are so many aspects of the device to consider: its functionality, the risks involved, the testing already completed, FDA guidelines, marketing claims, the packaging, biocompatibility, and more. So I will, with the help of my coworkers, analyze each of these aspects of the product, document what has and has not changed, and support my claims with engineering reasoning. Even though it may seem extensive, I am excited to tackle the task because it will help me understand more deeply how a product balances all of these diverse aspects and also add value to Boston through my work.

YPN professional development event

As an unexpected opportunity this week, I was also invited to a professional development workshop hosted by YPN (Young Professionals Network) and organized by several of my coworkers. The purpose of the workshop was inspire and give advice to those of us who are just starting our careers. I learned a lot from the eight speakers. My favorite was Boston’s SVP Global Manufacturing and Supply Chain who talked about career development. His advice was, “Be good at what you do. Say yes. Deliver results. And the company will give you more and more hard things to do.” I found this to be good advice, especially when he also expounded on the idea of creating my own dream job in my current situation instead of expecting my dream job to fall into my lap. This is an important concept for me because if I try to find my dream job then I may be searching forever; but if I create my dream job in incremental steps, then I am assured of “finding” it. This also drove home the fact that it requires a significant amount of time and effort to develop my dream job and that I should expect this. By the same token, my dream job will never be perfect, but I can always work to improve it. This makes me optimistic about my future jobs as well because jobs are not these rigid things that I had imagined, rather they are fluid and shapeable, offering flexibility to those willing to mold their jobs. Since I strive for perfection, this perspective shift of jobs from finding buried treasure to accumulating my own treasure over time will help me tremendously in the future. I will now choose a non-ideal job with potential over a momentarily better job without the ability to be adjusted.

One thing that I am learning this summer is that the 7:00-4:00 workday is quite challenging. It is sometimes difficult to stay focused for that long each day and to stay productive. This is where my coworkers are key: they always seem to be bubbling with energy, never fail to offer help and answer my questions, spur me on when I get stuck, and simply care about me as a person. I pray that I can find such a group to work with after I graduate. They have certainly set a high standard for my future work environments. I have also noticed that the type of work plays a role as well in how I handle the working hours. If I am engaged and interested in my work, then the day goes by quickly and I stay focused. But if I let my mind wander, or encounter a stall in my projects then the day drags on. So it is a twofold solution to enjoying and staying focused during the working hours: personable teammates and engaging projects.

As always, some fun facts about Costa Rica:

  • Five colones (about one cent) is the smallest coin in circulation
  • Everything on Netflix is defaulted to Spanish
  • McDonald’s serves gallo pinto (rice and beans) for breakfast with hotcakes

This weekend, in trying to take advantage of our precious spare time, we visited Manuel Antonio National Park. It was an amazing park with a wildlife-filled jungle that reached right up to the white-sand beach. We saw monkeys, sloths, lizards, crocodiles, birds, and a raccoon. I am continually impressed with Costa Rica’s environmental standards as the park was clean and protected by prohibitions of certain items inside the park. Costa Rica is leading the way in protecting the environment and the biodiversity that it holds. I am grateful for this because Costa Rica holds 5% of the world’s beautiful and valuable biodiversity.

The beautiful Playa Escondida (“hidden beach”) in Manuel Antonio National Park

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Week 9: Putting in the (Paper)work

Several weeks ago, I had a conversation with Dr Richardson about the different types of activities typically done within manufacturing engineering. At the beginning of the conversation, he said something like “Well first there’s sustaining, which is frankly a lot of paperwork.” Well this week at Boston consisted of a lot of sustaining engineering.

The 25 Non-Standard Production Requests (NSPRs) I managed this week

In my Week 7 blog post, I described a project that I’ve been working on involving data collection to start validating a new piece of equipment. The step we are currently trying to take is to conduct an experiment that should tell us which process parameters are most critical and a range of values for those parameters that would yield the best process outputs. I finished my data collection that helped us to define the values used in this experiment, as well as the full experiment plan, last week. At the start of this week, all that was left to do in order to start the experiments was to give the experiment to the production team. (It was important for the validation process that product builders use the machine to fabricate the parts and not interns.) I can definitely say I underestimated what would be involved in this request.

What I initially thought would be done on Monday to hand over this experiment ended up being completed a couple hours after I left work on Friday. The two main reasons it took so long were that there were several different documents that had to be consecutively approved by different people, and that we were trying to run 25 separate “non-standard orders,” which meant 25 iterations of every document. We couldn’t expect each document approver to respond as soon as we sent them what we needed, so it just took a while to get through everyone’s hands.

As I mentioned, the paperwork was completed after I left on Friday. Our goal was to start some of the runs on Monday, so we pushed hard to ensure everything was ready before everyone left for the day. I got to experience a taste of the high energy workstyle of manufacturing Friday as we were rushing around making sure all the paperwork was done and everyone had what they needed to start the orders early Monday morning. Having to leave with the rest of the Rice interns kept me from being able to stay until all the work was completed.

In my conversations with some of the Boston Scientific employees, I’ve learned that a major value offered by Boston Scientific (and most big medical device companies) is the reliability of their products.  This experience showed me a lot of the people and structure involved with the robust quality system that ensures their products’ high reliability. While it’s always possible to make mistakes, I saw how Boston’s system made it difficult to accidentally compromise the quality of the products that go out the door. I also noted how difficult it would be for a smaller company to attain these high reliability standards.

Another exciting thing that happened this week was the assignment of our implementation projects (see Week 8 post for background). I was given my first choice of the projects, an app that will improve hospice care for patients in Brazil. I’m excited for both the challenge this project will be and the impact it will have. Most of my coding experience is in Matlab, while the app that I will be improving was done in a completely different language. There will be a significant learning curve moving from a language as high level as Matlab to one used for app development, but I purposely chose this project to gain more hard programming skills. Furthermore, the work I’ll be doing won’t just be a learning exercise, but will have a real impact on people who are in a difficult yet meaningful part of their life! I’m overjoyed I will get to work on a problem I care about!

We can all feel the summer drawing to an end with only 8 days left at Boston. I will be working hard to finish this internship strong and getting ready for the Fall back in Houston.

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Week 9: Pivotal Week

Back in the Groove

I had a short week this week (due to an extended holiday weekend), and so we (Ryan and I) had to continue working on our projects without skipping a beat. For this week, we specified that it would be most important to work on the raw material characterization project. Just to recap, here were some of the deliverables that we had set out to accomplish by the end of the internship:

  1. Conduct Observations of Parameters Used in the Tip Forming Process of Catheters
  2. Conduct Tensile Pull-Tests to Find Optimal Parameters
  3. Develop a Compelling Argument for Tightening Process Controls for Raw Materials Coming into Coyol

The reason of interest behind this project is to create a better performing product, and one possible cause as to why there is unwanted variation can be traced to the raw material coming into Coyol.  The polymer extrusions come from a sister site, and there are several different indexes used to validate the material. However, there is a belief that some of these index parameters may have too wide of a tolerance. This issue seems like an easy fix, right? Perhaps the solution is to tell the sister site to ‘tighten the fence’, however, the proper method in handling this situation requires thorough research and justification (I sense a noticeable theme going on here).  The raw material is formed through a machine called an extruder (as seen in the figure below).

Extruder

Feedstock in pellet or powder form is fed into an extrusion barrel where it is heated and melted and forced to flow through a die opening by means of a rotating screw. It is in this process in which a multiplicity of variables exist, and so changing even one requires solid reasoning. For more visual learners, this is a good video simply explaining the process:

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaB-dsB1Kfk

On the Clock

With only 8 days left in our internship, the sense of urgency to start thinking about concluding our current projects has been creeping up on us. I have learned so much in my last few weeks at Boston Scientific, but now, it is time to start putting what I’ve learned into a cohesive format. Although I know I have a lot of work left to complete, due to the various projects I’ve been working on, I am truly excited in having my first true test in the Industry.

This upcoming week will be one of the most challenging of the summer. At the beginning of the internship, we emphasized that” SMART” goals should be set. Although I set weekly objectives within projects, it is now time to start concluding projects as a whole. Dr. Van Kleeck mentioned that it is important to have a mindset beyond the internship and to focus on things such as exit interviews and make sure that the post-internship transition goes smoothly. These are all aspects to consider and make sure are conducted effectively going forward.

Implementation Project

This week, our cohort was informed of the implementation projects for the upcoming year. We were given a list of potential projects and asked to rank them to gauge our interest. Fortunately, everyone got projects that they were interested in (Dr. Richardson working his magic yet again). I was given the opportunity to work on a teledermatology project in conjunction with Barretos Cancer Hospital in Brazil. Teledermatology is a field in which telecommunication technologies are being used to transfer medical information through varying media. In Brazil specifically, there is a need for nurses to transfer images of skin conditions of patients in a secure and effective manner. Although this project is a little bit out of my area of expertise, I think this will be a great learning experience and chance to expand my understanding!

Barretos Cancer Hospital, Brazil

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Week 9: As One Project Ends, Another Begins!

A lot has happened this week! Project 1 successfully reached its goal and ended. Because of this, I’ve been assigned a 3rd project! In this project there have been issues with a device used in colonoscopies recently- a wire loop with a mesh net used to collect samples for biopsy has a tendency to delaminate or break. Not good!

This type of background information for Project 3 is called qualitative information- typically found by identifying problems through a market analysis. After market analysis, R&D engineers had to take the qualitative information and turn it into quantitative information. In what position does the device break? How much force can the device withstand before it breaks? Is one side of the loop stronger than the other side? R&D engineers are basically science detectives, and are trying to identify the areas of concern within the medical device. Once questions like I mentioned above are given the proper numerical specifications, the process engineers step in to make the solution happen.

This is where my project begins: I have the test protocol, and I need to develop a validation method to verify the way the test is run wont affect the data. It’s basically testing the test that checks to see if something passes or fails. This is important because we want to make sure our test is repeatable and reproducible with little variation in our results.

I began to write the test-checker, aka the VTMV (Variable Test Method Validation) document, but I soon realized I lacked some foundation and structural information behind these complex tests. Thankfully, one of my managers Felipe helped me out and gave me some great resources from Six Sigma.

I spent a day reading all I possibly could, and have a much better understanding of the “Hows and Whys” behind a variable test method validation system. Variation in performing the test is undesirable, and Six Sigma gave great insight on identifying and eliminating variation. For example, variation can come from operator error(for example, a test favors those who are right handed). This type of variation is a more straightforward fix in the design of the test. Other types of variation are more difficult to pinpoint, and that is why statistical software like Minitab is awesome.

On Friday I was able to do a dry run of the test method- the numbers aren’t official, but they give me a good idea of what I’m working with. Next week I anticipate a finished protocol so I can later submit it to a board for approval. After that, my test method validation protocol will be used to test the colonoscopy devices here at Coyol! See you next week- Pura Vida!

Pictured above is the setup for the test on a machine called an Instron. It measures the maximum tension used to break the mesh holding the metal ball (metaphorical biopsy sample) when pulled through a tiny hole symbolizing a catheter.

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Keep Pushing

The exhaustion has finally set in. I found myself feeling exceptionally tired the last several days this week, which made it difficult to concentrate on my work. Luckily, I was able to continue plowing through my tasks and complete all of my goals for the week. Having a lot of tasks that can be completed in small amounts of time has helped a lot with keeping my motivation high and my progress on track.

For the DOT checklist project I am working on, I completed all of the sections of the Document Review that we aimed to finish this week. I read Design Verification Master Plans (DVMPs) for two of the product models, as well as the Design Validation (DV) Plans and Reports for those models. DVMPs are documents that describe the methods that the company will use to verify that the design of the product meets the requirements that were previously outlined in the design inputs. DV Plans and Reports are documents that outline the tests that the company will use to validate that the device meets the user needs and intended uses and then documents that these tests have been completed and whether or not certain specifications are met. I also spent some time this week summarizing my notes on these documents, so that they are more organized and easier to read. Next week, I will complete this project after reading the Design Change Logs, Use and Design Failure Modes and Effects Analyses (FMEAs), and the Usability Engineering Plan and Reports for the different models of this catheter product. This project has really taught me the importance of documenting your work. In a large company like BSC, there are thousands of employees all over the world that need to be able to understand all of the components of the projects they are working on, so having good documentation is crucial to company success. Documentation is also important for traceability of a project and being able to sustain products on the market. Although paperwork may be the least exciting part of the process, I am glad that I have had the opportunity to see its importance and learn to appreciate it.

Along the lines of documentation, BSC recently switched to a new system for storing their documents, and the DA team has a Value Improvement Project (VIP) open to help organize this system. They are creating Design History File (DHF) summaries in order to make it easier to find documents for specific products. Guiselle gave me the task of completing these summaries for five different products while she is on vacation. So far, I started the summaries for four of these devices (all of which are guidewires), and I finished the summary for one of the products that I discussed last week, which is the device that requires changes be made to the Directions for Use (DFU). In addition to the DHF summary for this product, I got to do a manufacturing line tour at the Coyol site this week to see how it is made. This was definitely the best part of the week for me, because the device is really neat and extremely beneficial to patients. It is used during interventional cardiology procedures to catch plaque and clots in the arteries to prevent them from traveling into the bloodstream and potentially the brain.

Another new task that I was assigned this week is to help get feedback from the DA team about working at BSC. A few months ago, the team took a survey in order to give the company feedback from their employees. My manager wants to get additional feedback about some of the answers to the survey in order to make improvements within the department and potentially within the company. I will be conducting one-on-one meetings with each member of the team in order to learn more about what BSC offers its employees and what aspects of their work life could be changed in order to make them happier. Once I have conducted these meetings, I will present what I hear to the entire team so that we can brainstorm solutions to improve the aspects of the job that the team feels are lacking. Guiselle and I are hoping that the team will be more willing to tell me some of the things they would like to see changed, since I am impartial in this situation and can present the findings anonymously. This is another project that I am excited to be a part of, because I get to use my unique situation of short time here at BSC as a benefit to the team and hopefully help make an impact and help my coworkers. They have been so wonderful to me, so I am glad that I have a chance to do something for them.

Last week, Guiselle taught me the basics on how to conduct a complaints analysis for a product already on the market. This is important for sustaining, because if your users are complaining about one of your products, you need to find out why and how it will affect the product’s life cycle and, more importantly, the patients. Complaints analysis utilizes a scale for severity and occurrence of a potential harm to the patient in order to determine a risk index that is then compared to the risk index indicated in the FMEA. If the indices match, there is no need for the company to do anything, but if they don’t, the company will have to take action. I will get the chance to practice what I was taught by doing a complaints analysis for one of the guidewires produced by BSC.

While I am excited that I have gotten to do all of these new tasks, I am a little bummed about two of my projects that have hit a standstill. For the Innovation Culture project, I completed a presentation for the Needs Finding lecture that I planned to present with Guiselle, but unfortunately, our goals were set back because of meeting rooms being completely booked. It seems that I won’t be able to give this presentation with Guiselle before I leave Costa Rica, but hopefully she and Jorge can use the presentation that I started to give the lecture. Additionally, my project focused on writing a scoping draft has not made any new progress this week. On Monday, I will be meeting with the project lead to determine the status of the project and will hopefully get some new tasks to complete. After discussing the project with my boss, she wants me to come up with a list of concerns and questions that I have about what this project could require, especially in terms of time and money. One of the biggest concerns is not knowing whether or not the project will require a clinical trial, which is expensive and takes a long time. I will also be looking into any predicate devices that the company may have that we could leverage for the new proposed device. Hopefully the project will start to gain some momentum next week, but regardless, I have learned that goals aren’t always met and that’s OK. The important part is that I am still learning.

On the bright side, I finished my portion of the onboarding project this week! Now, I can say that one of my projects is complete, and that is a great feeling. This week, I reviewed the website links that are provided to new hires to learn more about the company and the resources they have as an employee at BSC. I also estimated the time it took me to complete different portions of the onboarding process and gave more feedback about the process to the project lead. Hopefully the team will be able to use my work to continue to make improvements. I have noticed that the DA team is really proactive about improving their department, which is something that I find inspiring.

Lastly, on Thursday, Chandler, Callie, and I met with one of the engineers from the Neuromodulation Hardware team. He showed us the circuit boards they use inside their devices, as well as the machines they use to test the circuits before they put them in the casing. It is amazing how much information can be controlled in such a small amount of space.

Tuesday of this week was a Costa Rican holiday, so we got the day off to relax and catch up on some sleep (although, “sleeping in” now refers to waking up at 6:30am instead of 5:30am). In the evening, we had a BBQ out by the pool at our place, and some of our Costa Rican friends joined us.

On Saturday, we traveled to Manuel Antonio to kayak through mangrove trees and relax on the beautiful beaches in the national park.

With only two weeks left in Costa Rica, I am excited to go home to visit with my family and friends, but at the same time, I am sad that the summer is coming to a close. I look forward to making the most out of the next two weeks. Pura Vida!

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Week 9: Taking Charge

This week was a little slower for me! Because my supervisors are out of town, I was, unfortunately, unable to do much hands-on work at the office. Instead, I had to be more proactive in finding things to do. I took this extra time to speak with other employees in my department to see if they had any ideas on what the next steps of the project should be, and I received very valuable feedback from a few process development engineers. One engineer suggested that I acquire some of the research done by marketing that would allow me to more clearly articulate the market for the project, so I acquired some of these documents to read and incorporate into my findings. I even brought some work home with me, and spent time reading and writing about my project after work hours.

I also was able to create a comprehensive presentation that summarized my research findings and recommendations. In our short courses, Dr. Richardson emphasized how helpful it is to create presentation slides as you work through a project, rather than waiting until a final presentation or deadline to do so. I have been trying to keep up with this suggestion throughout my time at Boston Scientific, and it has been really helpful for me. Not only does it allow me to keep track of key project milestones, but it also helps me contextualize the work I’m doing and clarify my next steps. It also is a great way to quickly get other employees up to speed on the project, and will definitely be useful when I meet with my supervisors this week after they return.

Additionally, I have been working on creating documentation that summarizes the progress I have made thus far into my project. Documentation is one of the necessary evils of working at an engineering company – it’s not the most exciting thing to do, but it’s incredibly important. Documenting progress makes it easy to share work with others and ensure continuity of a project. The continuity aspect is especially important for a short internship. Once I leave, it’s important that the team be able to easily follow my research and findings, and clear, well-written documentation will make this possible.

Last week, I discussed the importance of holding myself accountable to my work, and this week made that sentiment more important than ever. With the absence of my supervisors and a temporary halt on my project, I was a little lost at the beginning of the week. It took me a while to regain some direction, but once I did I was able to find productive things to do. I am excited about the return of my supervisors this week, and hope that I’ll be able to really get going on my project this week!

This past Tuesday was Guanacaste Day, a Costa Rican holiday celebrating the annexation of the Guanacaste province! Because of this, we had the day off from work, and the GMI team decided to host a barbecue for some of our friends in Costa Rica. We spent a good chunk of the day cooking, but it was definitely worth it – the food turned out delicious! We were joined by some of our collaborators, including Luis, Jorge, Guiselle, and Guiselle’s newly adopted puppy, Daisy! It was a really fun way to celebrate the holiday and show our appreciation for our Costa Rican friends.

Our team also took a trip to Manuel Antonio this weekend, which is a national park on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. This area is beautiful, with gorgeous beaches, green rainforests, and tons of wildlife (sloths, monkeys, and birds) to observe! We kayaked through a mangrove forest and spent some time on the beach. With the end of our time in Costa Rica coming closer and closer, I’ve been feeling especially appreciative of all that this country has to offer – I’m really going to miss it!

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Week 9: Anticipation and Preparation

Everyone knows that when you wear white, you are only bound to get something on it- whether it’s a pen mark or food stain. Well on Wednesday this week I wore a white shirt, with this mentality of course. But instead of a little pen mark or food stain, I dropped an ENTIRE mocha on my shirt during lunch because of cap mix-up (it was the wrong cap, I promise). If you can imagine that chocolatey, milky, coffee mess on a white shirt, then you can imagine the embarrassment. Luckily Sanjana came to the rescue with water to flush out the stain! Despite the clean-up, I smelt (and felt) like a walking hot cup of coffee all day- giving me the name Coffee Girl.

Beyond my coffee escapades, this week was spent anticipating and preparing for my experiments and prototype builds. As a recap:

Project one: Optimizing the use of a new material for urethral stents.

Project two: Building or preparing a build for prototypes based on an R&D engineer’s design plans.

(New) Project three: [A continuation of a mini side project I did on Week 1&2] Advisement on the characterization of a new material for guidewires (for the Coyol and Heredia sites), using a submitted business proposal.

Project One, testing the material and equipment!

Project one got the green light once I was able to arrange a time and day to use the equipment in the clean room. So Friday afternoon I ran a test drive with the equipment and the material I am investigating. This experiment was helpful as I could configure how to use the equipment and note the material’s characteristics. These were all important factors to consider before I moved on to the next step involving the urethral stents and how I seek to optimize the use of it.

Project two is still in the preparation stage as I gathered most of the supplies I need to build the prototypes this past week. During my preparation, I have been meeting with Manufacturing engineers to determine what equipment I can use for my prototypes and finalizing the build plans little by little.

Project three is currently in the research stage. Since this project wasn’t one of my main or prioritized projects, I mostly hope to make progress on it for my team to continue carrying it out at the end of my internship. During week one of the internship I had begun this project by requesting FTIR testing of the guide wires to obtain solidified confirmation of the material. Throughout my research, I have compiled as much information as possible and documenting it in order to make it easier when moving forward. I am learning about a lot of new characterization tests, but the next step is seeing what is possible to do on site, since the main point behind this project is to bring the manufacturing of guidewires with this material to Coyol and Heredia.

While juggling these three different projects, I began to understand the undercurrents that fuel a medical device industry and the responsibilities of the engineers concerting these projects. Unlike research, where you can focus on one sub-aspect for years, in the industry it is important to multitask several sub-aspects as efficiently as possible. You have to work quickly but thoroughly in responding to stakeholders’ needs and collaborate with others to complete all the tasks.

To end the week, the GMI team made a trip to Manuel Antonio for a day trip on Saturday. Along the way we stopped on Crocodile Bridge, a bridge that overlooks a river bed where several enormous crocodiles tend to congregate. We also made a trip to the mangroves and explored this unique ecosystem through a kayak tour. And last but not least, we spent the afternoon at Manuel Antonio Park, which was by far the most beautiful beach we have visited so far!

Kayaking through the mangrove forest.

Looking down from Crocodile Bridge.

 

One of the beaches in Manuel Antonio Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until next time! Pura Vida.

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Week 8: Accountability

We are halfway through the internship! This week, I spent more time on the production floor. We were performing a confirmation build for one of Boston Scientific’s new catheters. Our goal was to test different curing conditions in order to establish high, low, and nominal temperatures and cooking times for specific steps of the manufacturing process. I got a chance to see how this process works, including all of the preparation and documentation that leads up to the tests themselves. In order to run the test, the manufacturing team had to produce enough catheters ahead of time so that the test could be run without hindering production output. This meant running a shift overnight to produce three batches of catheters, that could then be tested continuously. Once this was completed, our team was able to test our product under the different conditions. The entire process involved a lot of coordination and communication between different departments.

One of the most interesting things I learned this week was how detailed and precise the documentation process is for manufacturing. As I learned last week, most of the production is done by hand. For each step, there is an instruction document that outlines how to do it in extreme detail. Many of the steps are followed by quality control tests, in which the user can access whether the device has been successfully assembled thus far. If a device doesn’t pass the quality test, it goes into a scrap pile. Each time a device is scrapped, the engineer who scraps it must document why the device couldn’t proceed to the next step. Every step is tracked so that the engineers who handle the device are held accountable.

At any successful company, accountability is key. Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed the ways in which Boston Scientific incorporates methods to hold their employees accountable. At the end of every week, the Process Development department holds meetings in which one project team gets the floor and walks the whole department through what they have accomplished. There is a huge rolling whiteboard on which they list their goals, ideas, and deliverables. This is a really cool way that not only forces teams to monitor their work as their project progresses, but also gets the entire department involved.

One of the biggest things I’ve focused on this week is holding myself accountable. At a big company like Boston, and especially as an intern, a lot of the work that we are assigned is very open-ended. There’s no one keeping an eye on me to make sure I’m being productive, and I don’t have someone checking my work at every step to ensure I’m heading in the right direction. It’s my responsibility to make sure I’m taking the right steps, asking the right questions, and utilizing my resources. This week, with my boss out of town, I knew I had to make sure I was keeping on top of my goals. I delved deeper into my research, and asked for more opportunities to learn. At the end of the week, I was able to provide my recommendations for the next steps on the project, which I will get the chance to test out next week!

This weekend, we went to La Fortuna to see the Arenal Volcano! We relaxed in some hot springs, went on a hike through an inactive volcano, and took a boat ride through the lake. Arenal is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Costa Rica, and after hearing so much about it from many of the locals, it was exciting to experience it firsthand.

We only have three more weeks left at Boston Scientific, and in this beautiful country – I’m ready to make the most out of it!

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