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James Machek headshot. Next to the image is a maroon box with the words "Texas A&M University Engineering"
James Machek made a great impact in the three years he served in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. He will be greatly missed. | Image: Courtesy of James Machek

James “Jim” Machek passed away on Sept. 10, 2021. In the three years he served as professor of practice in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Texas A&M University, he taught over 750 students spanning sophomore through senior years. Machek shared valuable insight on the medical device industry and real-world experience in medical device design. He had a tremendous impact on the undergraduate experience.

Machek’s career spanned over 35 years as an engineer, manager, executive and educator. He led engineering product development teams in several multinational companies, including Schneider, Medtronic, St. Jude Medical and Covidien. He contributed to creating innovative medical devices and taking them from concept to market to improve the lives of countless patients around the world.

Alan Brewer, professor of the practice for innovation and entrepreneurship in the College of Engineering, was the one who reached out to Machek to gauge his interest in a teaching position. He met Machek in 1990 when they both worked at Intermedics Pacemakers.

“Back then, Jim was a larger-than-life sort of guy, at times being very direct and outspoken,” Brewer said. “Most of the time, he drove his (pacemaker) leads engineering team hard, and thus he really helped to improve our leads products.”

Machek led product development efforts for more than a decade within Medtronic, resulting in an innovative therapy for the minimally-invasive treatment of aortic aneurysms, going from an unproven concept to become the current standard of care for the vascular disease referred to as a ‘silent killer’.

When he joined the biomedical engineering department in 2018, Machek became the lead instructor for the capstone senior design courses, project-based experiences where student teams collaborate with industry sponsors to design and fabricate a medical device or system.

Dr. Mike McShane, department head for biomedical engineering, hired Machek after Brewer introduced them. McShane said it was obvious Machek would be a naturally effective teacher; he had an extensive network to find project and internship opportunities and brought a unique perspective that faculty and students would both appreciate. 

“In a short time, Jim had a major impact on the department,” McShane said. “His real-world experience was invaluable for mentoring students on their design projects and giving them career advice about the medical device industry. He also brought a no-nonsense approach to the academic environment and made sure students understood how to be professional and what would be expected in the workplace.” 

Machek improved student understanding by connecting complicated engineering principles with the practical experience that students need to succeed in today’s environment. He was instrumental in reformulating aspects of the design curriculum based on his years of industry experience, including setting the vision for a unique active learning environment: the Biomedical Engineering (BME) Design Studio.

“Jim saw a critical need for dedicated facilities for student projects and worked hard to set the initial vision for what we are building,” McShane said. “He was able to see some of that become reality and was very excited about what it is enabling us to do.”

“I know his very significant contributions to our students, to BME’s design courses and to the department are already sorely missed,” Brewer said.