Catherine Ross

Catherine Ross

Project Engineer
K2M, Inc
Arlington, VA, United States
Catherine Ross
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Since I was young I always enjoyed math and science. However, my real passion was to become a ballet dancer. I actually progressed fairly far into my dance career until I was told that I had scoliosis (a curved spine) and I was going to need back surgery. After multiple surgeries I was no longer able to perform some of the flexible moves required to be a professional dancer and decided to change my path. I talked with my AP Calculus teacher in high school about what I should do and he recommended engineering. I decided to go to Virginia Tech and I got my degree in Engineering Science and Mechanics (where the biomedical option at Virginia Tech resided when I was an undergraduate). I also ended up getting a second degree in Mathematics because I loved my math classes so much. Virginia Tech was a wonderful experience for me. I was able to perform research about scoliosis as an undergraduate, I became president of the Society of Women Engineers at VT, and I started a chapter of Alpha Omega Epsilon Sorority. All of these things were unspeakably helpful when finding a job. After I graduated, I decided to work for a company called K2M, Inc. K2M's mission is to develop and deliver technological innovations which enable surgeons to more effectively treat the world's most complex spinal disorders. I have an exciting and challenging job every day and one that really allows me to impact others' lives just as I was through my own back surgery. I also am an active volunteer in the community. I volunteer with Habitat for Humanity on the Family Selection committee which is extremely rewarding. I am also still very active with my sorority Alpha Omega Epsilon. Alpha Omega Epsilon is a professional and social sorority founded in 1983 that promotes friendship, leadership, and professionalism to all members of the organization, the community, and our professions. It is really the best organization that I joined as an undergraduate and it continues to be the most rewarding volunteering experience I participate in as an alumna. If you have ever wanted a group of friends who felt like family and know exactly what you are going through being in a tough, male dominated industry, Alpha Omega Epsilon is for you! Please contact me with any questions about my career or volunteer work. I love to help out female engineers and scientists find their way in the world!

B.S. Engineering Science and Mechanics, Virginia Tech 2006 B.S. Mathematics, Virginia Tech 2006 M.S. Biomedical Technology Development & Management, Georgetown University and Virginia Tech 2011
  • I am willing to be contacted by educators for possible speaking engagements in schools or in after school programs or summer camps.
  • I am willing to be interviewed by interested students via email.
Answers by Catherine Ross

Hi Rachel, 

Congrats on getting accepted to great engineering schools! I have many sorority sisters who graduated in engineering at the University of Illinois and they had a fantastic experience - it is a great school! I would say that finding a job isn't any harder than any other type of engineering. Also, getting a degree in any type of engineering will really help open doors for you in so many areas, so I wouldn't worry too much about getting a job. I would recommend to get involved on campus, try to get elected to leadership positions in organizations you are passionate about, and definitely try to get as many internships and co-ops as possible. Having "real world" experience is the best way to get your foot in the door and increases your chances greatly to be employed after graduation. The important thing is what you are passionate about and what will create a life-long drive to study and learn in that field. If that is biomedical engineering for you, definitely pursue that degree. Hope that helps!

Hello Tekeyia,
I usually think of biological engineering more synced to agriculture and biology (engineering behind plants, crops, animals, etc). Biomedical engineering is the term I use for the engineering of the human body. Some schools might use them interchangeably, but it really is based on what you are interested in. I think any good resume will have an objective statement at the top where you can describe what your goals are for employment and what area specifically interests you. Also, if you want to do engineering with the human body (medical devices, pharma, etc) you should make sure that the program you are taking offers courses in that area (Tissue Engineering, Cardiovascular Fluid Dynamics, etc) to ensure your course load will mesh with your career goals.

Hi Mairi,

I might be biased since I am an engineer, but I think engineering presents a lot of advantages. Could you get a minor in one and major in the other? I was a double major and it did add some time (several summers) but I wouldn't be afraid to take more time to really investigate both fields if they are both interesting to you. Also, I highly recommend internships and coops (which can delay your schedule too) but are very worth it! 

Hi Farah,

Biomedical engineering is a huge field. You can study so many things! Basically anything on the human body has some sort of engineering behind fixing those functions (orthopedics, cardiovascular, diabetes, etc). There's a million conditions the human body can go through and there's engineers and doctors behind all of them. I wouldn't worry about finding a job afterwards. Just do your best in school, try to get elected to leadership positions on campus in organizations that you are passionate about, and take as many internships and coops (even if it delays your schedule) because these things will really prepare you for a full time job. 

Hi Kristin, thanks for your question. Many people don't know or decide what they want to do until college. It is totally fine if you don't have any idea in high school and start in college with your "major specific" courses. Being a high school senior, you don't need to have knowledge at this point as a requirement to be good at biomedical engineering. If you are hard working and have a passion for something, you should go for it. If you start in engineering and don't like it, you can always switch back to biology. However, it is usually pretty difficult to start out in biology and switch into engineering. Worst case you go into engineering, decide it isn't for you and switch to biology. Most engineering programs make you take physics and calculus your first semester anyways, so there's really no requirement that you have to have it before that point. I would just keep looking into all your options and figure out what you are most passionate about and go with that. You can't go wrong if you follow your heart!

Hi Jessica,
Many engineers move to medical school after they graduate. Engineering is a diverse field and can lead to many career paths after graduation. 

Hello, Engineering is a very diverse field and opens many doorways to practically an infinite number of careers. You can totally study in both fields after graduating. This is a very common practice and why engineering is so attractive to many people because it can be used to relate multiple fields. Best of luck!

Hi Whitney! I didn't even know what an engineer really was in high school. I liked math and science so someone suggested to me that I go into engineering. I didn't really understand fully what that meant until my freshman year in college where I was required to go to informational sessions on each department's research. That's when I really started to understand what each department focused on and what engineering was. I think the hardest part about engineering for me was the different way I was treated compared to high school. In high school I was encouraged to do anything. I always got very good grades and was supported by all of my teachers and in all of my extracurricular activities. In college, there was a very different attitude, at least in my experience. The professors were more harsh in the way they graded, so I thought for the first semester that I was the stupidest person in the class. Little did I know EVERYONE was failing and that all the students felt like that! That's why I really enjoyed my experience with my sorority Alpha Omega Epsilon, because it was not only a sorority which offered sisterhood and friends for life, but also support from people who understood my choice of profession. Whatever your choice in support networks is, I would recommend finding a "home" as soon as possible and remember that you are not alone in your struggles and thousands of girls just like you are experiencing the same situation. Just because you fail one test (or several) doesn't mean you won't be a fantastic engineer one day! Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions. :)

Hi Claire! That is totally possible. I was in a dance organization for a short period while in college, but I knew many people who were long time members of dance companies in college as well as outside dance instructors, etc. while still being an engineer. Although it might be slightly more difficult that doing something like math where you have to take most of those courses anyways for your major, it is not impossible. Many universities have resources for students who are studying two very different fields and sometimes have special advisors or more than one advisor for those students, so make sure you inquire with your college when you get there about what support can be given to you so that you choose classes that will make your schedule easier. Great question, let me know if you have any further questions! :)

Hi Lauren, Thanks for your interest in Biomedical Engineering. I love my job! There are a variety of biomedical engineering jobs out there, so my job won't be the same as every biomedical job out there. My main role is to design implants and instruments in a 3D CAD software program (so on a computer). The implants and instruments are used in spine surgery by surgeons, so you have to think about what the surgeon wants, to make it easy to do the surgery, and also what the patient wants, because the patient will have your designs inside of them for the rest of their lives. I also attend surgeries to make sure that I've gotten the design correct and everything is working properly. Sometimes I will also have to read papers written by doctors and surgeons to be able to research a problem to come up with the best solution. It is pretty neat to know that something that you thought up is now inside of someone forever and helping them lead a normal life. Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more questions :)