Internship Field: Medical Technology, Ophthalmology, Laser Technology
Major: Biomechanical Engineering
Host: WaveLight AG
Location: Erlangen (near Nuremberg)
Duration: June – September 2008
Description: I did a series of small projects related to the Microkeratome, the device used to cut the flap in Lasik Surgery. I created CAD models for the microkeratome blades, performed quality testing on components, performed validation testing on motors, and performed hundreds of cuts on pig eyes using the Microkeratome. Documentation was also a part of my job. I wrote several protocols with graphs, data, and conclusions from my testing; some were in German, but most were in English. I also created barcodes and labels for the microkeratome. In general, I did whatever was needed, which ended up being great since I had the chance to learn about many aspects of the research and development process.
Comments: My projects were worthwhile. I learned how to use Solidworks, the main CAD modeling program in engineering. I also learned about the different aspects of research and development in the biomedical device industry, including manufacturing, FDA approval, clinical testing, documentation, and validation testing. These aspects apply to any biomedical company. I also learned very specific skills in ophthalmological medical devices. I am extremely knowledgeable about prepping eyes for testing, how the eye works and it’s components, specifications for how deep cuts should be, lasers, and the basics on lasik surgery. If I end up working full-time for a company specializing in LASIK, I will be very well prepared. [...]
I received valuable work throughout the internship. However, this is only because I was persistent and proactive about it. [...] For instance, I asked to learn SolidWorks in my spare time. So my supervisor gave me the manual and I learned how to the use the program when I didn't have assigned work. I was able to learn a very useful program and later on in the internship, he asked me to create a CAD model of a blade for the device for him since he knew I had learned how to use the program. I really think the internship work is what you make of it. Don’t just sit there because your supervisor does not have a specific assignment for you. Just take it upon yourself to create your own work, learn about the company and industry, and read relevant research on what you are working on. By doing this, I felt like I learned a lot from my internship and the way I created my own work showed my supervisor that I was really invested in my internship and I was there to learn which he really appreciated. Once I proved myself, whenever there was work to for an intern to do, he would think of having me work on it.
German language skills: My German improved tremendously during the course of the internship. While I was in Berlin, I was always with other American students and did not have to use my German very much outside of class. But once I moved to Erlangen for my internship, I was in complete immersion. I heard and spoke German at work. When I went home and turned on the TV it was all in German. When I went out with at night with coworkers, I spoke to them in German. It was very overwhelming at first and very frustrating. After my second day of work, my head hurt from all the German and the frustration of not being able to understand what was going on around me. [...] Somewhere along the line, my brain finally caught on. I always talked to my coworkers in 30% German mixed with 70% English for the words and parts I could not say in German. But by the end of the internship, I now talk to all my co-workers and friends in 90% German. Granted, it is still not perfect German grammar, but I can always get my point across without taking a long time to think of what I want to say. The language is a lot more natural to me now. My comprehension skills have definitely improved. After all hearing so much German, I have finally caught on to the rhythm and speed of native German speakers and can understand the majority of what is being said. My German writing skills did not improve too much simply because I did not really have to write very much. In general, I was really happy to have my internship outside of Berlin because it gave me the chance to have full immersion in German culture and language. As a result, my language skills improved at an astonishing rate.
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