Third year student Ryan Benjamin, a BS undergraduate student majoring in Biomedical Engineering with a focus in Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering, reflects on his first two co-ops with VenatoRX and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Listen as Ryan describes the breadth and depth of biomedical engineering research with these two prestigious organizations and how he worked alongside doctors and researchers in his studies.
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BS Student in Biomedical Engineering with a Concentration in Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering
Co-op Employers: VenatoRX and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)
One of the main aspects of Drexel that I was interested in was the possibility of getting a bachelors and masters degree, all within the same 5-year time frame. Additionally with the co-op program, I was very interested in getting work experience while in the middle of classes. The prospect of having a job upon graduating with a company where I'd already have experience and even having the chance of getting a bachelors and masters education with an extra year of school, all while gaining 18 months of experience to figure out what I really want to do in life, was a great opportunity. Drexel is also located a perfect distance from my hometown, so I could drive home and back in one day, if needed, yet it's far enough away that I can be my own person. Home is great, but being able to walk places in the city is a little more exciting than always having to drive.
I have had a couple co-ops so far and my first one was for a pharmaceutical company, VenatoRx, in Malvern, PA. I had the chance to do wet lab work growing bacteria from -70 degrees centigrade frozen samples and then creating plates to test the bacteria against in-house and known antibiotics. I prepared over 1,000 96-well plates for bacteria inoculation and then got to read plates for the minimum inhibitory concentration, or least concentration for the antibiotics to kill the bacteria. This was all done to help find a new antibiotic for antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
For my second co-op, I did clinical research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in the Plastic and Reconstructive surgery department. I had the chance to work with children with craniofacial congenital conditions, specifically with VPD, cleft lip, and cleft palate. Under the guidance of a CHOP surgeon, I recorded children doing some speech exercises as part of a research project. Additionally, I got consent from the parents and children with questionnaires for database research. I then did database research with medical chart extractions for a couple of research projects. For more clinical interactions, I walked with the families from the clinic to the audiology department for some more tests before coming back. This gave me a chance to spend more time with the family and see how things were going for them in the hospital, with a deeper view into what a patient actually experiences. I also had the chance to go into the operating room to view some surgeries and to shadow surgeons in the Emergency Department to get more clinical experience. Both helped me further my passion and interest in medicine and solidify the idea of going to medical school.
When applying for the co-op, I was under the impression that I would be doing a couple of different research projects and helping on both. As a result, there were a couple of research projects with which I assisted during my for co-op. As more projects came along, as the co-op, I was balancing my time for each of the projects to help the doctors and surgeons with the research regarding what had taken place or was being done, while they continued to do their work.
I was able to see how a wet lab works and the processes that go into creating a new drug discovery, including how to search for a new employee. While being treated as a full employee, rather than an intern doing menial work, I was doing work that was directly impacting the company as a whole in going forward. The chance to walk in and talk to the heads of the company, CEO, COO, and more was unbelievable, as they would sometimes invite me to sit and have lunch or ask for my opinion.
For clinical work, getting to meet with the patients, even for short amounts of time before seeing the doctors, was a fantastic experience. Being able to see patients light-up with joy when there was an improvement in their speech, or just giving them a high-five, really helped me feel better and helped me better understand why I want to go into medicine. The connections with surgeons and doctors letting me know that I would be a co-author on a paper for the research I helped them with was exhilarating, especially with the potential for recommendations for medical school when the time comes.
Overall, I must say that having the opportunity to create new connections with those in industry and getting to engage in a vast set of experiences with different people gives me a much better understanding of what I want to do with my career and has been a great help.