Alia is an R&D Product Development Engineer at TE Connectivity. Learn more about her work in the medical device industry and how you can #BeThatEngineer!
I was homeschooled my whole life until college. Junior and senior year of high school, I did the Post-Secondary Education Option (PSEO) full-time where I completed over 60 college credits. I then attended the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN where I obtained my Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and my minor in Chinese. I graduated in 2020.
I chose the engineering route because growing up, I loved math, puzzles, and activities that involved critical thinking. I have many uncles and cousins who are engineers, so I grew up hearing about their work and how much they enjoyed being an engineer. I chose Mechanical Engineering because I wanted to go into a broad discipline. I wasn’t 100% sure what kind of industry I wanted to work in, and mechanical engineering gave me the flexibility to look into multiple different industries.
In the end, I chose the medical device route.
After my freshman year of college, I was an FDA Testing Analyst Intern at Augustine Surgical Inc. I coordinated the testing of a new medical device and made sure that it complied with federal regulations. After my sophomore year, I was a Research & Development (R&D) Intern at AVEKA Inc. Here, I gathered data for projects that involved hammer milling, jet milling, and spray drying. In addition, I analyzed the impact of particle sizes on products being made and gained experience in writing technical reports. I started my third internship as an Engineering Intern at Nordson Medical at the beginning of my second semester of junior year and continued until the end of my senior year. I got to work on designing fixtures to protect medical products and testing whether the product met certain specifications. All three of these internships made me realize how much I loved working in the medical device industry, knowing that I’m helping people and possibly even saving their lives.
Outside of my classes and internships, during all four years of college, I swam for the women’s swim team and helped streamline the swim team’s recruiting and overnight system as their Overnight Coordinator. In addition, I was a member of the Society of Women Engineers.
After I graduated, I worked as a Process Development Engineer at Boston Scientific. One of my favorite projects was when we were developing a device that removed clots from the body. This project was in its earlier stages, which allowed a ton of collaboration with team members, brainstorming, and testing. This project allowed me to be very hands-on, which is something that I love.
I am currently an R&D Product Development Engineer at TE Connectivity where I work with catheters for the heart. My job involves updating processes for the manufacturing line. I also develop fixtures and tooling to improve usability, to decrease the amount of scrap or waste, and to ensure continuous improvement of the products I work on. I love the collaborative atmosphere in the office. Working as a team is critical in engineering; if you can’t work well with others, your project and your work won’t be too successful.
To high school girls interested in engineering, don’t be afraid to try something new and always ask questions. Engineering can be daunting, but it’s also so rewarding. If you’re unsure if engineering is for you, try taking an introductory engineering class, sign up for a STEM or engineering camp, or reach out to an engineer and see what their day-to-day life is like. In high school, I attended two engineering camps (one at the University of Minnesota and one at Notre Dame). These camps confirmed that engineering was a degree I wanted to pursue, and they also helped me narrow down what engineering discipline I wanted to go into.