Isabella Grassetti – How I Found My Passion in Biomedical Engineering

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How did you get interested in Biomedical Engineering?

Like many high school seniors, I had no idea what I wanted to go to college for – but I was told I had to go. During my senior year, my high school had arranged for us to attend a STEM event at Western New England University. It was there that I learned about the field of biomedical engineering; they had us remove grapes from gelatin (sort of like the game Operation) using a Lego-constructed, Arduino-run robotic arm. That exercise is what grabbed my attention; so I started researching New England based schools with undergraduate biomedical programs.

You have a Master Certificate in Six Sigma from Villanova University, why did you decide to pursue it?

My first co-op experience was in a contract medical device manufacturing facility as a Lean Implementation Co-op. My first industry boss & mentor had participated in the Villanova curriculum and began teaching it to me as I applied it to different processes & projects on the shop floor. The lessons I learned there I carried with me back to the classroom and to my two other co-ops. One of my most impressionable professors, Douglas Dow – instilled the importance of Life Long Learning and its role in having a successful career. I knew when I graduated I wanted to go through that certificate program in its entirety. It’s a very tools-based, analytic approach to problem-solving – it helps translate qualitative assumptions into quantitative findings which give the problem solver the ability to make data-driven decisions. The coursework opened so many doors for me.

What advice would you give to students studying Biomedical Engineering?

My advice to any engineering student is to follow your interests and don’t be afraid to deviate from the core curriculum. If you have interests that sneak into another discipline – go for it, now is the time. It’s essential to take ownership of your education and seek the knowledge you want and challenge yourself in areas you need to grow. Get involved in extracurriculars that help you to network. Don’t feel that you need to live within the bounds of your niche of engineering. Diversity is a good thing and will make you more marketable.

What advice would you give to students looking for a co-op?

Aside from doing the basics correctly (spell check, dress well, punctuality, firm handshake); I would most definitely advise students to leverage the alumni from their college. What I’ve found is individuals working in STEM fields LOVE to pay it forward. I would recommend reaching out to alumni from your school who work at organizations you’re interested in – LinkedIn is a perfect platform for doing such – and ask their advice on applying, what co-ops are offered, etc.

What extracurricular activities were you involved in at Wentworth?

I was a coxswain on the Wentworth Men’s Rowing team… which was an incredible opportunity to harness leadership skills before being catapulted into a male-dominated industry. I was involved in a few other clubs here and there, but crew was most impactful.

How did you learn to embrace failure?

There’s one moment in particular that comes to mind with this question. After an arduous application process; I ended up not being selected for a position in an Operations Leadership Development Program that I really wanted to be the foundation for my career. When the program manager called to inform me of the hiring decision; I asked for feedback as to why I hadn’t been selected. From this experience, I learned the importance of reflection, criticism, and honest conversations with yourself as to why you fell short. If you don’t take the time to work the feedback loop; you’re limiting your growth. Also, I’m a big believer of the mantra “Que Sera, Sera” and that helps me not to take situations in life all too seriously; everything happens for a reason.

Think back to five years ago. Did you envision this is where you would be?

Job function wise – yes. Industry and geographically – no. I knew after my first co-op that I was more of an Industrial Engineer than I was a Biomedical Engineer and that Operations Management was the place for me. Five years ago I definitely did not see myself working in healthcare.

If you could eat anything in the world right now, what would it be?

Italian Sfinges   

If you were stranded on a desert island, which three items would you bring with you?

My cat (Bean), a jetboil, and radio to summon a rescue (obviously).

What’s your favorite season?

That August-October Summer/fall transition.

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