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Derrick Smith: Biomaterials Co-Op Experience

Where did you co-op?

I worked at Synthes in the Biomaterial Engineering group. Synthes makes titanium and steel screws and plates for temporary medical implantation during bone rehabilitation. We more specifically develop and improve polymer and polymer composites to improve or complement existing products, or research an answer to an as of yet unsolved problem in the bone industry.

What did you do?

I worked on all long-term projects that, from concept to FDA approval to product, take two to four years. On a given day, you could find me doing anything from building prototypes from scratch, testing those prototypes on foams or cadavers, running standardized tests for degredation analysis such as TGA, DSC, IV, SEM, or analyzing and compiling data for presentation. Occasionally we had a surgeon or specialist visit and give a technical presentation for the research and development department's edification.

The best part about working while in school…

…is the contacts and networking. I am a Drexel transfer student and was working full time and going to school at nights for five years prior to my first co-op. Two years ago I was working in the wood flooring industry, and never would have imagined working at Synthes with the vast intellectual base surrounding me and with such neat and fascinating materials we strive to develop. The people I have met and experiences I have had through Drexel's program have been an insurmountable blessing, not just to my career and academics, but to my daily attitude and life.

How has your co-op affected your career goals?

I knew I loved to learn about things, especially about how things worked, and a little bit about the practical side of testing those things, but I never had enough knowledge to piece together the practicalities behind creating products. There's a lot more that goes behind a small little screw than I would have guessed. From working in the materials science field in an analytical lab, manufacturing, marketing, and now product development, I've gotten to experience all the different aspects of making "stuff" and know what I love to do, and what I certainly don't want to be caught stuck doing, making me more appreciative of what I do like. I'm glad I found these things out as a temporary employee so I can be more focused at finding what I want, long-term, out of school.

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Last updated Monday, March 29, 2010