Lisette Miller

Lisette Manrique Miller

Title
Program Manager
Organization
Ximedica
Location
Providence, RI, United States
Lisette Miller
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Biography
With over 10 years in medical device design R&D, Lisette has developed surgical systems with applications in orthopaedics, neurosurgery, and soft tissue repair. Implantable materials included in these systems range from traditional biocompatible metals to novel bioresorbables, as well as drug delivery implants. Lisette has lead the development of an enhanced electrosurgical bipolar forceps line, and contributed to a disposable instrument design for suture deployment, a fixation system for treatment of spinal deformity, and a diagnostic system for identifying degradation of intervertebral discs.
Education
Bachelor of Science, Biomedical Engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute Master of Science, Biomedical Engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • I am willing to serve as science fair judge or other temporary volunteer at a local school.
  • I am willing to host a field trip to my place of employment.
Answers by Lisette Manrique Miller

Hi Daisy,
I specialized in biomechanics & mechanobiology when I was in college - though I also took several classes that focused on biomaterials (which I found very interesting).  I've always liked engineering on a more macro level - and found it easier to understand the fundamentals when I could picture the principles in a tangible way.  Don't stress too much about choosing one. Check with your academic advisor if it's possible to fill your elective classes with courses that relate to a 2nd concentration ... if you want to get to experience two options at once.
Your best bet is to go with your gut!  Good luck!
Lisette

Hi Janelle,
It’s great that you have already identified a college major that’s of interest to you – congrats!  In order to best prepare for a biomedical engineering degree, I’d recommend taking a college-level prep course of any or all of the following:  geometry, trigonometry, calculus, physics, chemistry, biology and anatomy & physiology.  If your school offers advance placement courses (which can sometimes count as college credits), then it would definitely be worthwhile to take AP Biology & AP Calculus.  If AP Physics is available, that will surely help as well.  Most engineering universities are looking for well-rounded individuals, so while focusing on your math & science is good preparation for an engineering major, don’t completely neglect your humanities or arts classes.  If your school offers classes in Computer-Aided Design (CAD) I would strongly recommend that you check that out.  If they don’t offer it you can always download a free version, like Google SketchUp, in order to practice on your own at home.  

If you are eyeing a specific college, you may also want to check out their academic requirements for admissions.  For example, many colleges will require 4 years of math (including pre-calculus), 4 years of English, and at least 2 years of a lab science.  Your high school guidance counselor &/or the Math & Science Department heads would be able to help you figure out which are the best classes that are offered at your school to support your academic goals.  The science & math classes offered for freshman year might be biology or earth science, geometry or algebra II…any of these courses would be helpful for you; just make sure that you have the correct prerequisites to enroll.

Good luck in high school!  And remember to have fun!
Lisette

Hello Maria,

As with any engineering degree, the value of the degree itself is based highly upon the university's unique program/curriculum, and the faculty & staff which support that department.  I would recommend that you check out the programs in which you are interested and confirm that they are ABET accredited (http://main.abet.org/aps/Accreditedprogramsearch.aspx) .  This is a good way to screen them from a distance.  Be aware that programs are accredited individually, so if the college you choose has an accredited mechanical engineering program, this does not guarantee that the other programs are accredited as well.

With regards to choosing between undergraduate majors, it is more important to love the major that you choose rather than worrying about choosing the right one.  If you are confident that your primary interests, and career goals, are founded on science & medicine then biomedical engineering should be a good fit.  To give you a sense of flexibility when choosing BME as an undergrad major, the BMEs that I work with now are:  research & development engineers, design assurance engineers, human factors experts, user experience researchers, project leaders, department managers and even medical physicists.  

Most BME programs allow you to focus in a specific area such as:  chemical, mechanical, electrical or tissue engineering, biomechanics, bioinstrumentation etc.  You can also take courses specific to other degrees as your electives (i.e. Computer Aided Design, or Organic Chemistry) to help prepare you for a specific career path of interest.  Of course it is very common now to obtain a Masters degree in your academic area of interest so you can certainly add to your training in that way.

I'm not sure what negative comments you've heard about the biomedical field, but I know from personal experience that the difference between a Biomedical degree with a biomechanics focus and a Mechanical degree with biomedical focus is only 3 or 4 classes.  My friends who decided to pursue a mechanical track instead of biomed have had equivalent career opportunities to my own.  The attributes that will distinguish you from your peers when transitioning to industry will be your work ethic, relevant experience, your attitude & fit with the company culture.  Any well-respected engineering degree will prove your ability to problem solve and learn new concepts.  

I, myself, transferred from one university's Biomedical program to another and found that my alma mater (WPI) had a far superior BME program.  Sometimes it's just about finding the right school, rather than changing majors.
 
Good luck to you!

Best,
Lisette

Mara, To reflect on your words, what's most important about how you make a living is that you have a passion for what you do. If you're enjoying engineering feel that it is a good fit for your career, then keep going! Your background in psychology biology is a GREAT fit for medical device design. The FDA is more-than-ever focused on ensuring that appropriate usability studies are conducted before medical devices are approved for use in the market. That means that we need to be able to capture both the patients' and clinicians' needs, and design a product that not only functions well, but is safe to use too. Getting a degree in engineering is a good foundation for your technical background, and you may leverage your prior experience as a lens for bringing human factors into your designs. It is realistic to become an engineer later in life if you're willing to make the sacrifices associated with starting new in any career. Consider that you may be starting at a modest salary, and that compared to your peers you'll be working on more basic assignments early in your engineering career. But life experience and maturity will likely allow you to progress quickly. Also getting hands-on experience in industry is critical to obtaining a job after you graduate. Apply for internships, co-ops, or part-time work whenever possible, within the industry which interests you most. If paying jobs aren't available, consider volunteering to get initial experience. Lastly, be aware that most engineering workplaces remain to be male-dominated, which may be different than what you're used to. The ratio of women to men in engineering classes is often higher than that in industry, so don't be misled by the gender balance in your school. This imbalance in industry is not necessarily negative; just something you should be aware of, or become familiar with, especially if this type of work environment is new to you. Best of luck with the rest of your classes. Stick with it! We need more women engineers out there. Lisette

Dear Haley,

I'm glad that you are investigating this further (that in itself is a mark of an engineer). Try to think of engineering as the greater art of problem solving. So maybe you don't sit at home taking apart your phone, or fixing a broken kitchen appliance, that's OK. Consider the things that DO interest you and how engineering might apply to those topics.

Think of dance. Dance is not only the physical art of choreographed movement; it can also be broken down and analyzed to understand why and how it works. When you dance you must be constantly aware of your center of gravity, the friction between your body and the floor, and the angle and height at which you leap. These are all topics covered in Physics and Kinematics, which are the basis of Mechanical Engineering.

If you had an interest in studying motion (within Mechanical Engineering) you could:


help design video games, in which an athlete's true swing or kick is measured by sensors and then translated to his/her character
design a prosthetic limb for a dancer, who also happens to be an amputee

While majoring in Engineering might seem like the obvious fit, considering your academic strengths, don't rule out other options. My best friend in high school and I took many of the same AP and honors classes to prepare for college, and we both had great success in math and science. She happened to be a dedicated dancer, like yourself. While I pursued Engineering, she went on to study business and finance, and now has a successful career working in advertising at a very prestigious corporation. The key here is to find where your strengths & interests overlap, and to make sure you are passionate about whatever it is that you choose.

Best of luck to you in Engineering - or wherever else your journey may lead.

Lisette

Dear Elyssa,

I can completely relate to your plight on this particular topic. Since beginning my career in the medical device industry it has been something that I've struggled with often. I believe the desire to beneficially impact those around you is entirely natural; and you seem to be especially passionate about this task.

Based on my personal experience, I do believe that you'll be able to have a 'direct and personal level of interaction' with your customers in both the medical and engineering professions. The challenge within engineering is that your interaction with the patients who receive or use your devices (be it an implant, monitor, or surgical instrument) is usually limited to observing procedures in the Operating Room or the ICU. I think the important thing to consider as an engineer is that the patient isn't your only customer! …you can't forget the surgeon, the scrub nurses, and your internal customers, such as your marketing partners etc. As an engineer, it is an essential part of your job to gain a thorough understanding of the Voice of the Customer (VOC) so that you can develop the most safe and effective product for the benefit of the patient. It is likely within this type of role, that you'll have much more interaction with the surgeons and nurses than with the end user (patient) themselves. Outside of procedures, you have the opportunity to meet with surgeons during conferences, training courses / cadaver labs, and other scheduled meetings.

I have worked for 3 major, corporate medical device companies within my career and have found that if you seek out opportunities to interact with the surgeons who utilize your devices you will certainly be granted that chance. If you are not proactive about this then the customer interaction will lie solely with the sales and please don't hesitate to contact me with any further questions.

Lisette