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Women in Engineering program offers new perspective on career paths for students

Female engineering students observed how their education can be applied to improve and save lives during a recent tour of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

The tour was part of the Women in Engineering (WiE) Program’s Learning Community, an initiative that creates unique opportunities for professional development, academic support and community building  experiences for current students. Eighteen Buckeye engineers visited several lab settings and learned how the hospital’s clinical engineers utilize their skills to support the medical staff and enhance patient care.

“Exposing students to a practical application of our field in clinical engineering provides a perspective on career paths that students may have not yet realized apply to their major,” said Olga Stavridis, assistant director for WiE in the College of Engineering’s Office of Diversity, Outreach and Inclusion.

“Many women engineering students are passionate about helping people and want to use their engineering skills to make life better in some method,” added Aimee Ulstad, associate professor-clinical in the Department of Integrated Systems Engineering (ISE), who helped coordinate the tour.

In the Electrophysiology Lab, students saw new equipment being installed in one of the rooms and learned what is required to ensure that a patient’s interaction with the technology is successful. Clinical engineering staff described several troubleshooting scenarios in which a piece of equipment might fail during a medical procedure, and the need for back-up supplies and power sources.

While visiting the Radiology/Linear Accelerator Lab, students learned how the equipment interfaces with the space around it. Ulstad explained that the lab’s walls are made from a special South American concrete that contains hematite, which blocks the radiation from penetrating through the wall.  “The doors to the room are about 10 to 20-inches thick, weighing anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 pounds and open and close slowly due to the weight. This is an example where biomedical engineers and civil engineers have to collaborate,” she said.

Many students felt the experience gave them a broader perspective of where an engineering degree could take them.

“It was really informative,” said ISE major Andi Garver. “I want to get into the healthcare industry in a hospital setting so it was really cool to see how people are doing that with their engineering backgrounds. It opened my eyes to the pathways I can take to get there.”

“The biggest takeaway for me was when they were talking about the communication aspect of engineering,” said Cassie Boutelle, an ISE major. “I was already interested in healthcare systems within ISE, but I enjoyed learning about the all other types of engineering and how they communicate with physicians and other staff and how everything comes together to ensure that the patient gets the best care possible.”

The WiE Learning Community organizes a number of facility visits for its students each semester. During fall semester 2017, students got a behind-the-scenes tour of how the Schottenstein Center hosts athletic and entertainment events, and traveled to Owens Corning Science and Technology Center in Granville, Ohio.

Article originally published by the College of Engineering