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One option students can pursue during their summer enrichment experience is to interact with clinicians to learn more about how medical devices are applied in the health care field. Note: Photo was taken before COVID-19 restrictions were in place. | Image: Texas A&M Engineering

The Summer Enrichment Experience (SEE), hosted annually by the Department of Biomedical Engineering, celebrated its fifth anniversary in 2020. 

The program provides undergraduates at Texas A&M University insight into practical applications of biomedical engineering in industry to enrich learning and explore career paths. Program highlights include:

  • “Day in the life” half-day or full-day unpaid experience
  • Emphasis on industry and research applications
  • Open from mid-May to mid-August
  • Past experience providers include surgeons, physicians, medical device companies and researchers.

The SEE program launched in 2015 as a way to provide students additional opportunities for interactions with industry to assist with career exploration and networking. Jacqueline Havelka ’87, a member of the Biomedical Engineering Advisory Board, started the program. Maria Lyons, program manager for corporate relations and former student outreach in the department, manages the program.

“It has been very rewarding to see hundreds of students participate over these last years,” said Havelka, co-founder and director of Inform Scientific, a Houston-based company that specializes in freelance medical and technical writing and management of scientific and medical research programs. “I hope that we have provided some sparks of interest to help them pursue a particular career path. All it takes is a spark to get that fire going!”

Over the years, the program has had a nearly 100% increase in undergraduate students in the biomedical engineering department from 2014-20. Also, it lined up well with a College of Engineering initiative called ENGRx, which requires all students to have an external experience such as research, leadership or industry experience prior to graduation.

“The program has also grown tremendously from the student perspective as well. In its first year, approximately 20 students participated,” Lyons said. “Our fully virtual series in 2020 resulted in 94 active participants, 25 of which received credit for the ENGRx curriculum requirement.”

When it first started, opportunities were focused on contacts in the Houston and College Station areas. However, opportunities soon expanded throughout Texas in person and the entire nation virtually. Some examples of partnering companies include Quest Medical, Abbott, the Mann Eye Institute, NASA, Medtronic, BD and Cook Medical.

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2020 SEE interns and their supervisors hosted a virtual presentation for the biomedical engineering SEE program. | Image: Courtesy of CardioQuip

In-person opportunities prior to the pandemic included industry and hospital tours, physician shadowing and networking opportunities. Due to COVID-19, the 2020 program was moved fully online; this transition allowed the series to expand to include panel presentations from former students, information sessions focused on career paths at major medical device companies, talks about a day-in-the-life at a start-up company, virtual product demonstrations and more. 

“Companies, their employees and our former students have all been extremely gracious in sharing their time and expertise with our current students,” Lyons said.

At the end of the summer, the department reached out to participating students for feedback on the virtual experience. Here were some responses:

  • “SEE gave me a unique experience of hearing about numerous companies and what they have to offer as an employer, without having to leave my desk.”
  • “The virtual SEE program has helped jump start my job search and helped me better network with industry professionals.”
  • “I chose to participate because, due to COVID-19, my summer internship was canceled and I wanted to still accomplish something worthwhile for my degree during that same time period.”
  • “The exciting panels and different perspectives from different companies makes me want to ask about how their engineering jobs are like.”

Looking forward, the ideal goal for summer 2021 will be to have a hybrid model of some in-person and some virtual experiences. The department is monitoring the COVID-19 situation and staying in touch with interested companies. More than 100 student participants are expected with at least 20 hosted event opportunities. 

“The people in industry who provide these opportunities for our biomedical engineering students are incredibly impressed with the caliber of students in the department,” Havelka said. “This is a credit to the amazing faculty and staff who teach and prepare these young people for industry. Our biomedical engineering future is bright! I encourage former students and medical device industry professionals to participate in summer 2021. It is a very rewarding experience!”

Companies, organizations and/or individuals wishing to host a SEE event can email bmenSEE@tamu.edu for more information.