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Global Co-op at the Institute of Biomechanics in Murnau am Staffelsee, Germany

January 25, 2018

About me

Justine Rose is a fourth year Bioengineering student with an interest in the medical device field and a passion for travel and learning about other cultures. She has completed two co-ops so far at Northeastern, the second of which was a global co-op in southern Germany. Justine is very involved in the Society of Women Engineers and attended the SWE National Conference in Nashville her sophomore year. Outside of the College of Engineering, Justine is also involved in her sorority Sigma Delta Tau.

Global Co-op at the Institute of Biomechanics in Murnau am Staffelsee, Germany

When I first received my acceptance to Northeastern University, I couldn’t have predicted how much my time here would be defined by countless rewarding experiences. I entered the College of Engineering not knowing which specific type of engineering I'd like to study, let alone what type of co-ops I’d like to have. As a freshman, the area of engineering that seemed most interesting to me was environmental engineering. I loved learning about sources of alternative energy and ways through which we could engineer solutions to global warming and climate change. This interest in environmental engineering led me to attend a summer term of class abroad in São Paulo, Brazil where I learned about the alternative energy technologies so well-incorporated into Brazilian energy systems. That summer, I immersed myself in Brazilian culture and explored a language and country entirely new to me. I always knew I loved to travel, but this experience had me craving more global experience. Upon returning from Brazil, I had learned two important things: I wanted at least one other experience abroad within my undergraduate career and as interested as I still was in alternative energy technologies, it was not the field of engineering I wanted to work in.

Another field of study that I had always been fascinated with is the field of biomedical engineering. Throughout high school, I spent my summers working as an Assistant to the Wish Coordinator at the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. My time spent planning and facilitating wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses required interaction with families and doctors of wish children to determine if travel would be feasible for a child. I dealt with a lot of different medical technology and observed how limiting certain types could be. It broke my heart when children whose wish was to go to Disney World were unable to fly in a plane due to the medical technology they required. From this job sparked my interest in medical devices. When I came to Northeastern, I knew that my graduating class would be the very first class in which the bioengineering major would be offered, however I was at first hesitant to join the new program. After my trip to Brazil and another summer at Make-A-Wish, I decided to further pursue this interest and declare bioengineering as my major.

My first co-op was a manufacturing/electrical engineering co-op at a company called Mobius Imaging, LLC, which manufactures a medical imaging device called the AIRO CT scanner. This co-op taught me what is involved in the design and production of medical devices. I worked closely with the manufacturing engineering team to improve this device itself and identify ways in which image quality of the device could be tested. I really enjoyed this co-op and was grateful for all that I learned during my time at Mobius.

By the time of my second co-op, I knew it was time to go abroad again. I eventually accepted a co-op at the Institute of Biomechanics at the BGU Murnau Trauma Research Hospital in Murnau am Staffelsee, Germany. This co-op involved working on a team of about 20 researchers and completing my own research project in the field of biomechanics. Although I can't go into specifics about the research I was doing, my project primarily involved the exploration of different fracture fixation methods through both mechanical testing and finite element analysis. While the job itself allowed me to gain substantial technical skills and experiential knowledge of biomechanics and biomedical engineering, I found the general experience of living abroad to be just as rewarding. 

For those six months, I lived in a small village in southern Germany with remarkable views of the Bavarian Alps, rich German culture, and quick access to the city of Munich via train. I came to Germany knowing very little German and not a single person in the country, other than those from the lab that I had been in contact with. I can honestly say that moving to Germany was one of the most difficult changes I've had to undergo. Upon arrival to my small town, I immediately felt the loneliness take over me. I quickly realized that I was not in a city where it would be easy to meet people. It was the dead of winter and the town center was a lot quieter than it would have been in the spring or summer. Lastly, and most shockingly to my friends and family, I had no internet access. I did not know how I was going to last six months there. As the time went on and I became more comfortable at my job, my emotions toward my time there quickly turned around. I loved the work that I was doing and I was happy with how much I was learning from my research. I worked hard to feel more comfortable in the town that had become my new home. I forced myself to go out, explore the area, and meet new people. I made friends my age that lived in Murnau, as well as some lasting friendships with other students at the lab. I traveled both alone and with friends around Europe. Within weeks, the experience had transformed from lonely and extremely difficult to already one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had. Once the snow cleared up, I spent afternoons and weekends hiking the southern region with my coworkers. I learned so much about German culture, history, and language, and I met so many incredible people.

My experience in Germany left me with countless memories, a new sense of independence and adaptability, and important engineering experience within the research field. I knew that I had made the right choice in going to Germany and sticking it out until the very end. The experience truly taught me a lot about myself and I gained valuable insight on my capabilities from the initial difficulties. It also made me realize that I made the right choice in deciding to study bioengineering. I am extremely grateful for the global experiences I was lucky enough to be granted here and I can't wait to see how the rest of my time at Northeastern unfolds.

January 25, 2018 10:45 am