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A New Emphasis on Design for Biomedical Engineers

BME Design Fellows Program helps prepare undergraduates for industry careers

From the 2018 DukEngineer Magazine

After 20 years at Duke Engineering, Mark Palmeri has seen a lot of students graduate—and while many of them go on to graduate, medical or professional school, even more decide to seek a career in the biomedical industry.

Now an associate professor of the practice of biomedical engineering, Palmeri wants to make sure the BME program is preparing students well for those careers. And with a bachelor's degree (2000) and PhD (2005) in biomedical engineering from Duke, and an MD (2007) from the school to boot, he's just the man for the job.

Palmeri has developed a BME Design Fellows Program that is designed to be the industry-focused equivalent to the Pratt Research Fellows program. The program is three semesters long and includes a summer internship experience.

BME students apply in fall of their junior year, and, if selected, will enroll in an industry-skills building course the following spring. This course is designed to teach students techniques that they will use during their summer internships. The program then sets fellows up in either a hospital or industry internship in the Triangle area. Throughout the summer, students meet with the other fellows to discuss their experiences so that they can reflect and learn from others as they work through their first internship. Finally, in their senior year, the fellows take a two-semester design sequence.

Students showcase their design projects at the Biomedical Engineering Design Symposium"We have received great feedback so far and there seems to be a lot of excitement," said Palmeri, noting that this year over 30 juniors applied to the program and 18 were accepted. "This is twice the number we had originally intended, but we wanted to expand the program because people were so interested."

Palmeri is currently in the process of setting up internships for the participants, saying, "The trajectory of Duke BME students after graduation is shifting from medical school and research careers to industry. To help these students be better prepared for these pursuits, we're creating a more dedicated tract for them in the curriculum." Palmeri's hope is that with this program, BME students interested in going into industry will be able to learn skills and techniques in class that they will later use in their industry position and will therefore feel more capable and qualified as they join the workforce.

Palmeri's new program seeks to provide interested and curious students with the opportunity to use their time in college to figure out what they want to use their degree for. By giving students an opportunity to take industry-focused classes, this program will help students become more prepared and confident to join the workforce.

winning team with posterAlthough Duke's career center provides students with resources to search for internships and prepare for interviews, it can still be a daunting experience for students seeking summer internships. Every student goes through the process independently, not necessarily knowing what the most important information from their classes is when it comes to the job search. Then, when students are at their first internship, they are apart from their Duke friends.

A program though Duke such as the BME Design Fellows program gives students the opportunity to go through this process with their peers and gives them a chance to reflect on their experiences and learn from others, so they can be better prepared for future jobs.

By giving students more opportunities through their coursework to focus on preparing for their industry positions, the BME Design Fellows Program seeks to help them feel more prepared for life in industry and equip them for a successful move into the workforce after their four years at Duke.

Cassandra Ingram is a Pratt sophomore pursuing a double major in biomedical engineering and electrical and computer engineering.

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