Deciding what to study in college can be a difficult decision for both undergraduate and graduate students. For some, it’s a matter of finding out how they can support a lifelong passion, for others it’s a journey of self-exploration in order to determine what that passion might be. While many students may feel disappointed or worried that they don’t enter college with a clear, set in stone dream to fulfill, it’s actually quite common. Nearly 80% of students change majors at least once during their university experience and even if it means spending a little extra time at school, it’s well worth it if you find a new direction better suited to your needs.
Victoria Sears, a recent graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn, was well within the norm then when she decided to change her plans for a major in biology or engineering to bioengineering in her sophomore year. She didn’t feel a biology major was going to offer her exactly what she wanted and began searching for a better fit, as she explained:
“I thought about biology, but after taking some classes, I wanted to be more math and puzzle-solving orientated. I thought about engineering, but I wanted to help people directly – something with a healthcare impact. After exploring what the university had to offer, I sat down with a bioengineering professor and learned more about the field. I felt it was right for me.”
Always a driven student, Sears had already successfully participated in an internship before beginning her second year and it was there that she was introduced to the impacts that 3D printing could have on people’s lives. And her commitment and interest in the technology has only continued to grow. She described a particularly impactful experience when she was shown a 3D printed tracheal splint during one of her internships:
“This tracheal splint saved a baby’s life. Doctors were able to fabricate a device that was successful when there were not other options. I wanted to do more than work in the medical field, I wanted to make a contribution. I wanted to improve it; do something that is life changing.”
It was during her junior year that she really began to understand how much 3D printing had to offer medical practice during an internship with SME. While there she learned about 3D printed prosthetics that gave people replacement limbs, 3D printed heart models used to help prepare medical teams for surgical interventions, and a wide variety of medical devices that could be custom fabricated for patient-specific needs.
She went on to do a final internship with 3D Systems and at each stage her belief in the fitness of her choice and her commitment to 3D printing grew stronger. As she enthusiastically stated:
“What I saw was just incredible. When you are doing something that helps contribute to someone having a successful outcome, you feel like you are making a difference. It’s time well spent. Knowing these are things I could do in this field solidified my choice. My professors helped me build a foundation in the field, expand my network and increase my confidence. I’m ready to learn more. Printing to assist the medical field…is a new world that’s currently developing. There’s much room for improvement and innovation, and I hope to get to be a part of that.”
Internships, mentoring, and publicity may be seen as secondary to the work of directly preparing students for the performance of 3D printing but, as we can see here, they are important parts of reaching out and convincing students to take up the study in the first place. Sears, who will be beginning a graduate degree in bioengineering this winter, is just one example of the wave of students who will be the ones to take 3D printing to the next level.
What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts; join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.[Source/Image: UM Dearborn]
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