December 7, 2023
About 30 students participated in the BME Exchange session on Monday, December 4, featuring Gary Luker, Professor, Radiology, Biomedical Engineering and Immunology Program, and Associate Chair, Clinical Research in Radiology; and Chris Plott, MSE, Vice President of Research & Development, MC3 Cardiopulmonary.
The goal of the BME Exchange is to provide a networking forum for students to connect with presenters and build professional relationships, according to Karen Gates, BME’s Alumni, Development, and Industry Relations Manager.
“The main focus of this event is career exploration,” Gates said. “I have heard from many alumni who thought they were set on a particular role or employer but then were exposed to new opportunities through sessions like this and changed their minds. They were still committed to BME but learned about a new facet of the field and ended up with careers in a part of BME that they might never have thought about before attending this type of presentation.”
Gates noted that building personal connections plays an important role in career development. “When students attend a meeting like this and hold a conversation with a professional in the field, they stand out,” Gates said. “These conversations can sometimes lead to future connections such as internships and even jobs upon graduation, depending on the circumstances.”
Students at BME Exchange had an opportunity to hear both speakers’ career backgrounds and how they each took distinctive paths in their professional journeys. Dr. Luker, who is an M.D., noted that he started working many hours in a lab so he could generate data and build his resume. He said that his PI gave him the freedom to explore different areas in his research and learn new skills along the way. Dr. Luker emphasized the importance of collaboration with others–not just people within your area of expertise, but also those in other professional realms who can introduce new perspectives to looking at challenges. He also said it is important to be patient regarding achieving your goals and to be open to changing them along the way if needed.
Chris Plott brought an industry-focused approach to the conversation and noted that he began his journey as an undergraduate majoring in aerospace and then mechanical engineering. He interned in the automotive industry, but realized it was not for him. He knew that he wanted to develop things that “make a difference,” so he embarked on a simultaneous graduate degree in BME. He interviewed at Medtronic, but did not get the position he initially sought. However, his resume was forwarded to another Medtronic unit, where he did receive a job that he stayed at for 10 years until he landed a position at his current organization, MC3 Cardiopulmonary.
Plott offered several key pieces of advice to BME students. He encouraged them to be open to moving jobs, but not to change jobs just for the sake of changing. Plott said there should be some core reason–skill growth, family considerations or other significant motivation–for making a leap. He advised the importance of being in an organization that is growing and not stagnating or declining. He also noted the need to maintain a positive professional relationship with a former employer. Medtronic works with MC3 Cardiopulmonary as a key distributor, and his previous strong connection helped the working relationship along the way.
BME PhD student Julia Han attended BME Exchange because she is “interested in following a similar path as the speakers.” PhD student Lindsay Chan likewise was interested in the discussion and “learning more about the career paths each speaker had taken.”
BME freshman student Tasuku Uraguchi wanted to learn more about different opportunities in biomedical engineering. Lexi Trokhan, also a freshman planning to declare as a BME major, said the evening “offered a great place to get tips on career planning as well as a solid introduction and overview to the field.”
“I had a wonderful time talking with the students and really appreciated the opportunity to connect at the end of the evening,” Dr. Luker said. “I hope they will carry forward the advice given to me: You can never pay back all the people who help you along your career journey. What you can do is pay forward to the next generation.”
Plott echoed that sentiment. “I very much enjoyed speaking with the students, and I am always hopeful that students can take something from my past experiences and apply it to their unique situation,” he said.