As a high school student, Cristina wanted to be a surgeon and specialize in reconstructive surgery. Although she initially wanted to major in Biology, her mother insisted she look at more options. So, after combining her talents in Calculus and Physics, and her interest in the medical field, she decided upon Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech. Once here, she realized her interest in art as well as in research and development over medicine, and opted to minor in Industrial Design. Her academic and artistic background, complemented by her competitive nature and individualistic leadership style, which she polished in her positions as a Peer Leader and as a Teaching Assistant, led to her internship with Stryker.
Cristina is now a fifth-year student. She has interned over three summers, first with a startup called Nimbic Systems where she was a clinical research coordinator attending multiple hip replacement surgeries, where the company’s device was used. Her experience with hip replacements drew the attention of the Stryker representative at the career fair her second year. She was hired as a systems engineering intern to work with their Mako robot, an assistive robot for partial and total knee and hip replacements. She has interned with Stryker twice now. Her first summer at Stryker, she worked with graphical user interface (GUI) and product design. After communicating with surgeons from various places in the US and around the world, she applied her knowledge of human factors and surgical procedures to determine how the robot’s GUI with which surgeons’ interface before and during surgery could be more usable. The following summer, she worked on testing the usability of one of the robot’s surgical applications. Her team brought the robot with the loaded application to the cadaver lab and tested usability with multiple surgeons. She accepted a permanent position with them and will work on designing a new surgical application.
What Cristina particularly likes about Stryker is that intern projects are impactful to the organization, not simply frivolous work.
. Rather, they are treated as potential future employees, integrated into current projects, where they are graded on their set deliverables, similar to an academic structure. As a BME student, she was part of the Systems team. Cristina had to first figure out how the robot worked and whom to communicate with to learn more about the robot before she could before she could begin to tackle her own projects. At the end of her internship she had to give a presentation to the entire office of what she had achieved over the summer. Her responsibilities as a Systems Engineer included interfacing with different engineers like mechanical, electrical, and software engineers to make sure the different parts of the robot worked together.
While she felt her friends from more traditional majors were able to easily correlate what they had learned in class to what they worked on, she had to pick up bits and pieces from what she learned in systems physiology, material science and engineering, biomechanics, and the ability to work effectively with a team to work on a product design project, similar to those done in BMED 2310 and 2250. This allowed herself and fellow BMEs not only the opportunity to co-ordinate the big picture, but also to work on very diverse projects; she worked on design and usability on the robot, while another BME student worked on the technical and mechanical aspects of the robot. Thus, she believes that the position of a Systems Engineer for a BME robotics company is a great career opportunity for a BME student.
While the specific things she learnt in class did not always directly correlate with her job, her experience with Stryker did directly correlate to her personality traits, since
Thus her strengths; achiever, competitor, analytical, ideation and individualization (the results of a Gallup strengths finder test) meshed nicely to create a diverse team with all members having their own roles to achieve a common goal.
Cristina has two pieces of advice for fellow BME students. As a student who wanted to work in Research and Development, her main academic advice to other students pursuing the same path is to take BMED 2310 as soon as possible, so they can add it to the projects section of their resumes. Additionally, Cristina says Systems Engineering is a great potential career for BMEs due to the similar skill sets that both System Engineers and BMEs have. She feels that the freedom for a BME student to build their own curriculum, without any specific goal in mind, can lead to a lack of focus. She pursued her goals by using her freedom to specialize in what was important to her line of work – her breadth electives to do an Industrial Design minor and her summer internships to learn and work in Research and Development. Ultimately, she advises students to decide early what they wish to do and shape their curriculum to best achieve their goals.
Edited by: Mary Clark