Although college students commonly rush to graduate, it is important to realize that everything done during the short years of undergraduate studies at Georgia Tech is preparation for the future and plays an integral role in shaping careers. Tyler Harmon echoes this sentiment.
Coming into Tech as a prospective pre-med student, Harmon says he made the “classic freshman mistake” of involving himself in “a huge swath” of activities and organizations. In his second year, Harmon decided to hone in on what interested him, leading to his undergraduate research, fraternity, and his philanthropy group, GT For The Kids (FTK).
Harmon’s undergraduate research experience with Dr. Ajit Yoganathan, a professor in the BME department whose research focuses on cardiovascular fluid mechanics, helped him gain exposure to the medical space, as he worked on an ExtraCorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) device, a device for very small infants who were unable to be safely fitted with a typical device.
The project was co-sponsored by Emory and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHoA), so Harmon spent a lot of time visiting hospitals. This exposure steered him away from the medical field, but Harmon still says his experience was valuable because he interacted with a diverse group of people and gained a better understanding of cross-organizational projects.
He added his own twist on his role by acting more as a peer advisor, helping them pick which classes to take and when. He says this opportunity sparked his interest in teaching, mentorship, and working with other BMEs.
Through FTK, Harmon helped raised money for Children’s Miracle Network and CHoA every year. This philanthropy experience sparked his passion for “non-profit work and small project work, or basically any work where I was the leader” Harmon says.
Apart from his extracurriculars, Tyler says that Tech’s BME curriculum itself actually helped define him today. “The problem based learning (PBL) classes…w[ere] something that really helped push me towards entrepreneurship because [they] teach baseline skills that you need as an entrepreneur,” Taylor remarks. In addition, he explains that the BME department requires its students to be skilled in multiple fields, and this flexibility allows for BMEs from Tech to work outside of the medical device sphere.
All of these experiences combined well with his personality, as Harmon has always felt he enjoys taking charge. Harmon says “you either start your own business, or you have to deal with this part of your personality.” Because of his passion for taking charge, Tyler went on to found BW Health, a class one medical device startup based in Atlanta.
Harmon also says he regrets not doing any internships in his time as an undergraduate student, and he doesn’t want others to make the same mistake. That is why he started his own internship program at BW Health. The program “give[s] focus and exposure to people who are talented and driven, but don’t necessarily have that record of R&D experience…and give them something to put on their resume, so they can eventually land that job at a bigger medical device company.”
The internship is purely education-based. Interns learn the industry, its terminology, and the involved science. Similar to the curriculum at Georgia Tech, the internship is centered around PBL, with assignments skewed towards things in industry like development of new products, user need development, and product development pipelines.
At the end of each week, Tyler gives a lecture based on different elements in industry such as regulatory pathways, quality assurance, and anything else he didn’t learn in his undergraduate years. After 16 weeks, the interns present a new concept for a product, and if all goes well, it actually gets put into a portfolio.
With this internship, Tyler aims to set a standard, and show that people “need to do a better job of providing for the undergrads…and give back to make sure that they don’t have to go through what previous generations had to.”
A pre-med student-turned-entrepreneur teaching other BMEs at his own internship program, Tyler Harmon embodies community service through his dedication to educating Tech’s current BME students, steering them towards a bountiful career./span>