Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Betsy Swovick

SwovickName: Betsy Swovick

Occupation: Engineer

Education (UR and additional): BS Biomedical Engineering and Certificate in Management Studies

Current job title: Chemical Process Engineer

Current employer: Bausch + Lomb

Current city/state of residence: Rochester, NY

Community activities: United Way, Ashford Ballet Company, B+L Young Leaders Network


When and how did you choose your major(s)?

The summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school I attended PREP (Pre-College Experience in Physics) at U of R. PREP is a summer science program for selected 9th or 10th graders from the Rochester area public schools that aims to encourage young women’s interest in science.  Both of my instructors for this program were BME majors and spoke very highly of the program. We also were given the opportunity to learn more about BME from a couple of the professors within the department.  I knew instantly that the integration of science, math, and biology was precisely what I wanted to study in college (although, at that time, I was still convinced that this would be my pre-med major and I would go on to be a doctor). I only applied to colleges that had BME as an option and ended up choosing U of R because of the ability to start working with the Medical Center.

By the time I was done taking BME201, I had decided engineering had me and I no longer wanted to pursue a career in medicine. As I suddenly had opened up all of this time in my curriculum, I looked into what other classes I could start taking. I fell upon a Certificate in Management studies which coupled nicely with my cluster in Economics. I loved these classes in a completely different way than my BME ones and still find myself drawn to this field as well.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I was very involved in both the Ballet Performance Group and the Music Interest Floor. I not only gained life-long friends from these groups, but also improved my leadership and management skills. My current role as a process engineer requires me to take on project management duties and having the experience of being on multiple executive boards while in college gave me the opportunity to easily transition into management roles in industry.

What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use?

I tell every underclassman that I meet to utilize office hours! I think so many students take them for granted, but going to office hours improved my relationships with my professors (and therefore my grades).

Another thing that I preach is to say “yes” while in college. I had so much energy while I was at UR and there were so many opportunities to take advantage of! Whether the opportunities that present themselves to you are research, networking, internships, or leadership roles, college is the time to say yes and do it all!

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

Starting in January/February my senior year I started applying for jobs non-stop – the tally was easily up to 100 by the time I graduated. I did not limit myself by geography and just applied to anything that I thought I was qualified to do. I ended up applying for a lot of clinical research positions as I worked in clinical research for 3 years as an undergrad and felt that I had the most experience in that field. This first position I was offered was as a Clinical Study Assistant at Bausch + Lomb, I worked in that job for 6 months before a permanent engineering position opened up within the company and ended up transitioning to that role by the January after graduation. I have now been a Chemical Process Engineer at B+L for almost two years!

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

One of the biggest “nuggets of knowledge” that I have taken with me is how to think. The problem solving mindset that I had to use as a BME major is one of the reasons I am able to work efficiently in my current role. Another big skill set that I have honed in on since college is the leadership and management skills I mentioned earlier. Having this combination of skills really helps me to be consistently successful in the work place.

Where would you like to be in five years?

Five years from now I plan to have my MBA and moving into a role in Business Development and/or Marketing.  I like the engineering mindset, but would like to move into the commercial side of industry and begin to integrate the two fields.

What advice do you have for current Hajim School students about their time on campus, graduate study, or the first few years after college?

While on campus take advantage of everything the school offers! Say yes, go to networking opportunities, work with your professors, stay after class to chat – you have so much right at your fingertips!

Right after college, I encourage recent graduates to continue networking and become involved in community organizations. I became heavily involved in the United Way’s campaign this past year which has increased my visibility in my organization as well as in Rochester.

I also think that right when you graduate you shouldn’t worry about your first job out of college. Find something that pays the bills and gives you experience, it doesn’t have to be your dream job right off the bat (because, honestly, you probably don’t even know what that is, even if you think you do). I’m learning more and more about my passions every day so I preach that your first position doesn’t need to be perfect, but you do need to take advantage of all the connections you can make at it! Go to networking events, join special interest groups within your organization, get involved, and make yourself known. That way, when your dream position opens up (and you’ve figured out what your dream position is) you are the first person the hiring manager thinks of!

Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Nicole Ruszczak

ruszczakName: Nicole Ruszczak

Occupation: Medical Student

Education (UR and additional): Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering; Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine

Current job title: Medical Student

Current city/state of residence: Philadelphia, PA

Community activities: Surgery Club, Volunteer Activities


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

Because of the biomedical engineering program, and the wide variety of classes offered.  I also really liked the small class sizes.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I was very involved with BMES, the Biomedical Engineering Society.  I held a few leadership positions in this club and learned how to delegate tasks as well as how to work together as a member of a team.  It was also a lot of fun to plan social and academic events for my fellow classmates, and to get to know engineering students in other years.  I was also a member of a sorority, and made many close friends that I am still in contact with today.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

I started medical school at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. I have been interested in medicine since I was a teenager, so choosing to go to medical school was an easy decision for me! I also think that my Biomedical Engineering background helped me make an easy transition to med school.  It made me familiar with a lot of current issues in medicine and basic anatomy, and also helped me develop an excellent work ethic and great study skills.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I am currently in my last year of medical school, and am now interviewing for General Surgery residency positions. I will be starting my residency in July.  I really enjoy working with my hands, so being able to operate and see patients is something that is very exciting to me. I also love the technology involved in surgery and am excited to see what new modalities will be developed in the future.  I also think that surgery is a challenging field, and it will push me to continue learning and studying during my entire career.

Where would you like to be in five years?

In 5 years, I will be finishing up my last year of General Surgery residency. I think I will most likely also be applying for a fellowship in Vascular Surgery. I hope to work for a hospital in the New York or Philadelphia area.

How do you balance your work and personal life?

It is very difficult to find time for yourself while in medical school, but it is very important to do so!  My friends and I would plan occasional “study breaks” where we would do something fun – Like go out to dinner, see a movie, or go the gym.  Even though it sounds counterintuitive, I believe that taking these breaks from studying actually helped me do better on exams.  I also spend a lot of time with my boyfriend, who is also in medical school.

Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Sarah Provan

provanName: Sarah Provan

Education (UR and additional): BME class of ‘05

Current job title: ELearning Team Lead

Current employer: Epic

Current city/state of residence: Madison WI

Family: Husband – Alex Provan (Anthropology/Psychology class of ’05), Daughter – Charlotte Provan (Born 9/20/2011)


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

I was interested in the University of Rochester for the strong engineering department, the location, and the volleyball program. I was sold once I visited campus – walking around the quad looking around I realized that the campus was exactly how I’d dreamed a college campus would be.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

One of my favorite activities was actually my work-study program! I was lucky enough to get to work with the athletic training department as a student assistant. While there was certainly many hours of mindless cleaning, I also had a wonderful opportunity to learn. The mechanics of injury and rehab were fascinating as they lined up with my biomechanics studies.

There was also an incredibly strong sense of community. I got to be part of the team that got the team ready to go, kept them moving, and helped them recover as quickly as possible.

What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use?

The writing lab. I used this quite a bit, and I’m glad I did. Written communication is incredibly important in the business world and new graduates should be aware that nothing crushes credibility faster than a poorly written email.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

Public speaking, hands down.  At the beginning of my senior year I was an average public speaker. Though presentations related to my senior design process I was able to improve dramatically, and came out being very strong.  I was able to bring that strength to Epic when I graduated. After starting in a different position, I ended up spending 6 years leading classroom training for programmers and IT staff before transferring again to my current position.

How do you balance your work and personal life?

This is a huge challenge. People who are just graduation should be aware of just what I big challenge it can be. After UR I knew I wanted to work for a fast paced company, but I wasn’t quite ready for the fact that “homework” doesn’t end once you graduate in most fields. My advice would be to figure out what your limit is, and stick to it even if it means that you can’t get to everything. If you can be happy and healthy working 80 hours a week then go do it. If you can’t, then don’t be afraid to say no J My husband and I make sure we are always both home to have dinner with our daughter, and have at least one “work free” night a week.  We still work too much, but we at least

Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Kathleen Maloney

maloneyName: Kathleen Maloney

Occupation: Healthcare/Medicine

Education (UR and additional): BS Biomedical Engineering, UR, 2010, KEY Scholar, UR, 2011

Current job title: Radiochemist

Current employer: Yale School of Medicine

Current city/state of residence: New Haven, CT


When and how did you choose your major(s)?

I chose Biomedical Engineering as a freshman because I was really interested in healthcare.  The opportunity to design and develop medical devices inspired me.  I ended up obtaining a minor in Environmental Engineering, but that kind of chose me more than I chose it.  I took a course in Chemical Engineering in my junior year that let me work in the Biodiesel Lab. After that, I kept taking classes with a focus on green energy and wound up with a minor that I wasn’t expecting.

What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use?

I worked in the Biodiesel Lab my junior and senior years and decided to devote a fifth undergraduate year in the Kauffman Entrepreneurial Program to improve the sustainability in the lab.  I highly recommend the KEY program to anyone who has a vision of a project that they would like to pursue.  The scholars’ projects range from science to dance to tshirt pressing, or so it did when I was a scholar!

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

I accepted a position as the Clinical Research Assistant in Vision Care at Bausch + Lomb in Rochester, NY during January of my KEY year.  In that position, I worked with Optometrists and Ophthalmologists who helped perform clinical trials of contact lenses and contact solutions.  I wanted to obtain experience in healthcare industry before deciding to go back to school to really figure out what aspects and areas interested me the most.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I am currently working as a Radiochemist in Positron Emission Tomography Center at Yale School of Medicine.  While in my position at Bausch + Lomb, I realized I really enjoy studies that take subject data into account.  I like the idea of implementing adaptations to drugs and medical devices from clinical trials so I accepted a position at Yale that is also a part of clinical trials.  I currently work in Quality Control of PET radiotracers that are used to track the path of drugs in the body.  I test the radiotracers before they are used in the trials to ensure they meet the FDA qualifications.

What advice do you have for current Hajim School students about their time on campus, graduate study, or the first few years after college?

My advice is to gain experience in as many research settings and/or fields of study that you can!  You don’t really know what will interest you, or not interest you, until you experienced it first hand.  When I was an undergrad, I had no idea what clinical trials were and I thought everyone in BME just works in a lab forever.  While that may be the path for you, or the path for me someday, there are a lot of different opportunities out there and you should explore them as much as you can!

Help UR Grad Students Win Video Contest!

Biomedical Engineering graduate students Bryan Bobo and Youssef Farhat are currently nominated for the Orthapedic Research Society’s national video contest. Their video, shot during the fall semester, focuses on the importance of collaborative research for orthapedic healthcare. The video, titled “Working Together For a Better Future,” features interviews with both professors and doctors from the University of Rochester.

The Orthapedic Research Society’s contest is currently underway, and the video with the most votes on their website will be shown during their national convention in New Orleans in March. You can view and vote for the video here!

Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Jarrod Orszulak

defaultName: Jarrod Orszulak

Occupation: Engineer

Education (UR and additional): Biomedical Engineering, 2007; MS ECE 2008

Current job title: Product Manager

Current employer: FRABA Inc

Current city/state of residence: Philadelphia, PA

Family: living with loving gf (UR alum)

Community activities: President, Big Pond Association


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

Dottie Welch. No seriously, I was interested in BME and the personal time she took to spend with me and introduce the curriculum to me was impressive. It not only made me feel comfortable with the program, but excited and enthusiastic. Her energy was reflective of the staff once I was there as a student.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

Variety of academic (BMES, TA, lab instructor) and extra curricular (sailing, badminton, club sports council). Most important thing I learned was how to be a leader even if you’re not in a formal leadership position.  Being able to influence your peers, classmates, etc even though you aren’t formally appointed as a leader is critical while you’re beginning in a new career and at the bottom of the totem pole. You’re not going to be hired and have your first job be in upper management, I don’t care if you have a BS from Harvard, a MBA from Wharton, an MD from Johns Hopkins or a PhD from some other prestigious school.

What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use?

Take advantage of the generosity of your professors and their time. Whether its office hours, doing research, or speaking to your advisor regarding your career or studies after Rochester. They have a wealth of knowledge and fortunately make time for students when they could easily be doing their own research or spending more time with their families that they most likely don’t see enough.

Who were your mentors while you were on campus? Have you continued those relationships?

Be best friends w/ the undergrad admins. Not just Dottie, but they were all great (at least in engineering). This will hold true when you leave college, there will be a secretary or office assistant behind the scenes that will make the office run like clockwork. I was always amazed that at the knowledge of these individuals even though they never spent a day sitting in a class. I often would consult with them before going to speak with my advisor.  “We stand on the shoulders of those before us”  

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

 MS ECE Rochester 2008 – 2008-2011 MIT AgeLab, took it to explore different opportunities, ended up doing a lot of cognitive engineering and studying how older adults interact with technology.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

 2011-2012 – FRABA Inc – Product Manager – Work for a small tech firm doing primarily sales, marketing and new product development. Get to work with customers to find solutions to problems. Face many challenges related to both industrial automation and a growing small company.

 How are you still connected with the University?

Honestly, not really. Haven’t been on campus in a few years. Haven’t really stayed in close touch with my friends from college.  It happens I guess…

What advice do you have for current Hajim School students about their time on campus, graduate study, or the first few years after college?

Realize you most likely won’t be doing whatever it is exactly that you went to school for.  Either be doing something different due to the economy, or will want to live somewhere else and thus have to take a different job, etc. You will also most likely realize that you want to do something else, maybe a little different from your focus, maybe very different.  Establishing a solid engineering background and having the ability to adapt will be critical.

Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Catherine Marando

MarandoName: Catherine Marando

UR Major: Biomedical Engineering

Other UR Majors/Minors: Economics and Chemical Engineering

Current City, State of Residence: London, United Kingdom

Job Title: Whitaker International Biomedical Engineering Research Fellow

Employer: Imperial College London

Community activities: Women in Science, Engineering and Technology


How did you choose your major(s)?

I was that freshman carrying around brochures for fifteen different potential majors. BME seemed to be the best combination of math, biology, physics, and problem solving; essentially, it was the major that encompassed a bit of all of the other majors that I was considering.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I was involved in the Society of Women Engineers for four years. I loved being the community outreach chair and coordinating events to encourage young women to pursue engineering. In my senior year, I was the president of SWE. I learned a great deal about staying organized, delegating responsibilities, and trying to motivate participation. Other activities I participated in were Tau Beta Pi and the badminton club.

Who were your mentors while you were on campus? Have you continued those relationships?

I would encourage all students to actively seek a mentor early on in college. My mentors were professors for whom I had TAed or PIs for whom I had done research. Don’t be afraid to speak with professors or employers that you respect and see if they have the time to give you guidance and career advice.

What are some specific skills students should develop during an internship?

Initiative, capability, teamwork, and the ability to recognize problems and actively seek good solutions. Internships are not only a chance to learn new techniques or processes, but also the opportunity to take initiative in solving problems and cooperate with colleagues of diverse backgrounds and ages.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career? Where would you like to be in five years?

I am working at Imperial College London as a Whitaker International Bioengineering Fellow on glaucoma related research. This is a one-year fellowship after which I plan to attend medical school. I chose to take this year to experience life in another country, meet fascinating new people, and challenge myself. I would advise current students to apply to lots of programs/internships/fellowships regardless of the competitiveness or difficulty of the application… just go for it and don’t be afraid of a challenge. In five years, I would like to be graduating medical school and I would like our country to have an economically sustainable healthcare plan.

Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Kelly Kyker-Snowman

kelly ksName: Kelly Kyker-Snowman
Occupation: Lab Technician at University of Rochester
Education (UR and additional): Master’s and Bachelor’s of Science in Biomedical Engineering at University of Rochester
Current job title: Lab Technician
Current employer: University of Rochester
Current city/state of residence: Rochester, NY
Family: Father and younger sister
Community activities: Dance at Roc City Dance, volunteering at Gilda’s Club


When and how did you choose your major(s)?

I chose Biomedical Engineering early – it has the great aspects of engineering, with all of its interesting problems and straightforward theories, as well as a background in biological sciences and applications therein.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I am currently a lab technician at the University of Rochester. I have always known that I wanted to get into cancer research, but decided to take time off between my Master’s and returning to graduate school for a PhD in order to improve my research experience and candidacy as an applicant. My current occupation has given me valuable experience in research and also been an excellent source of recommendations.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

Although my engineering courses were among my favorite classes, the thorough background in biological sciences and research techniques has been more useful to my current position. The opportunity to acquire both made for an excellent education, however.

Where would you like to be in five years?

In five years, I would like to be finishing a PhD program in Cancer Biology, specifically researching early detection for Ovarian Cancer, and on my way to leading research in this area.

How are you still connected with the University?

I am still employed by the University: in my post-graduation job search, my best connections were with the University, and it was the first employer at which I could find work that would lend the research experience that I needed.

What advice do you have for current Hajim School students about their time on campus, graduate study, or the first few years after college?

Regardless of how in demand your major is, the job market is definitely tough right now. As an undergraduate, it is absolutely worth it to make as many connections as possible with professionals doing interesting work in your area of interest. And don’t give up – eventually, you will find work that is rewarding and interesting. Also, the 3-2 program (for the degrees that have it) is and excellent option!

Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Jason Condon

condonName: Jason Condon

Education (UR and additional): BS in Biomedical Engineering from U of R, Master’s in Biotechnology from U of Pennsylvania

Current city/state of residence: Philadelphia, PA

Occupation: Scientist/Engineer

Current job title: Scientist, Cell Technologies

Current employer: Janssen R&D (Johnson & Johnson)

Family: 2 Sons: Owen – 2, Jonah – Newborn, Wife: Aimee Ruscio (BS in ChE Class of 2004, Simon MBA 2005)

Community activities: Right now my time is dedicated to my family


 

Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

Growing up in Sodus, a small town outside of Rochester, everyone knew of the prestige of the U of R. When I began to apply to colleges, U of R was always at the top of my list because of this and also because it was close to home. The thing that sealed the deal was the fact that there was a brand new major, Biomedical Engineering that blended biology and engineering.

When and how did you choose your major(s)?

When I was in high school, I absolutely loved science – especially biology and physics. So when I was a senior deciding what I was going to be studying for the next 4 years as an undergrad, it made sense to me to choose Biomedical Engineering since it was a nice blend of the two subjects I liked best. Plus, I initially wanted to go Pre-Med and this was a challenging way to meet the pre-med requirements.

What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use?

When I was a sophomore at the U of R, I wanted to gain experience in a graduate lab to prepare me for the next level. Fortunately, I was able to land a position as a part-time research assistant in Dr. JH David Wu’s lab. Dr. Wu set me up with a PhD student as a mentor and he taught me a tremendous amount of molecular biology skills that I could not have learned in class. EVERY engineering student should find a professor who does research in a field that you are in interested in and volunteer to work in their lab WITHOUT PAY. The experience you gain will be invaluable and the University offers you this amazing resource.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I work for Janssen R&D (within the pharmaceutical division of Johnson & Johnson) as a Scientist developing biopharmaceutical manufacturing processes. These are processes to make medicines from living cells. I kind of “fell into” this career: when I was a senior at the U of R, I was taking a ChE class with Dr. JH David Wu and he brought in a speaker from the pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb. I approached the speaker afterwards and expressed my interest, and next thing I knew, I was working in the industry and have been here ever since. I am sincerely grateful for Dr. Wu’s help in getting me into my career – he also let me work in his lab as an undergrad to gain experience to build my resume.

 

What advice do you have for current Hajim School students about their time on campus, graduate study, or the first few years after college?

1) Enjoy the friendships you have formed and keep them strong. Some of my closest friends today are the people I met at the U of R. Having good friends will help you achieve the proper work/life balance. Plus, I met my wife at the U of R!

2) Think about your future beyond just what you want to do for a living: Where do you want to live and are those jobs available there? Do you want to have a family by a certain age and will your career get in the way (or vice versa)? Are there jobs available in your field?

Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Katie Litts

klittsName: Katie Litts

Occupation: Graduate Student

Education (UR and additional): BS in Biomedical Engineering, University of Rochester, 2010. Currently in the Vision Science PhD program at University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Current city/state of residence: Birmingham, AL


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

I picked UR because of the academic freedom. I knew I liked math and science but I wasn’t a hundred percent certain that I would like engineering. With the UR curriculum, I knew that I could easily change to another major or take a random unrelated class and not affect when I graduated.

When and how did you choose your major(s)?

I picked my major randomly. As a freshman, I was assigned a BME advisor and I took BME 101, which I really enjoyed. After taking an optics course in the fall semester of sophomore year, I decided to declare my major as biomedical engineering with a concentration in medical optics.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I was involved in a variety of different groups including the Society of Women Engineers, varsity track and field team, Class Council, Tiernan Project, St. Sebastian Society and Catholic Newman Community. Being involved helped me to know my classmates better, become involved with the community, and gain leadership, time management, and networking skills.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

In the fall after graduating from UR, I started graduate school. I decided I wanted to earn a PhD after doing research while at UR. I received help on the graduate school application process from my BME advisor and advisors from the Kearns Center. My research interest in vision sparked from my education in BME and Optics at UR.

How are you still connected with the University?

I am an alumni interviewer for the UR Involved program and I interview prospective students around the world and share my UR experiences. I keep updated on everything happening at UR through social media and I still read the Campus Times.

What advice would you give to current Hajim students?

Get involved in clubs, academic groups, sports or intramurals, and even a research lab as early as possible. Your years at UR will probably be the best years of your life. Enjoy them, have fun, build your network, take advantage of all the opportunities you can find, and grow academically. Also, find a mentor to help you achieve your goals.