Please tell us about yourself
Meet Kavya Suresh, a BME (Bioengineering & Biomedical Engineering) alumna (M.S. ’13) from SSN Institutions, Chennai, India. She’s currently a biomedical engineer at Blue Belt Technologies, a CMU spinoff with its headquarters in Minnesota and the research and development team in Pittsburgh.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and uncommon career?
I did my undergrad in Biomedical Engineering in Chennai, in the south of India, and I wanted to pursue my master’s in BME. Some things that really fascinated me were medical devices and medical robotics. CMU, of course, is the best in robotics, and I thought I would get a better opportunity to combine robotics with BME to enter into the field of medical robotics. I found the BME program to be very flexible. We’re allowed to take a lot of cross-listed subjects. That is something that really attracted me to the program, because not many schools allow you to choose and take a variety of subjects from another department.
At first it was a lot of work. It was days and nights of hard work. But I really liked my time, and I feel like it’s over too soon.
What do you do now?
Right now I’m working for a company called Blue Belt Technologies. It’s actually a CMU spinoff; the Chief Technical Officer of the company is Dr. Branislav Jaramaz. Blue Belt Technologies is an orthopedic medical device company which creates robotic system for Unicompartmental knee-replacement surgeries (UKR). Our system guides you through the whole process of a UKR surgery, from surgical planning to precision bone sculpting.
I started off as a design assurance intern. Here I did testing and validation of the software as well as the hardware, and now I’ve joined full-time as a biomedical engineer in the Mechanical Engineering department, where I’ll be involved in work ranging from product testing to mechanical engineering as well as software analysis.
How did BME help you in preparing for your job?
The BME program is very interdisciplinary. You can choose whatever path you want to focus in, whether it’s imaging, or the designing side of medical devices, or the biotech side ofBME. Getting the opportunity to learn a lot of different things helped me get this job. I wasn’t just learning biology but was also able to learn the software and hardware side—the mechanical side of things. All of the courses I did for my master’s at CMU really helped me, for sure.
And it’s a CMU spinoff startup, so definitely being a biomedical engineer at CMU helped me get the job.
What’s some advice you have for other master’s and international students?
I would say start looking at companies early, and what kinds of positions are available. It helps to read up and see what is currently happening in the biomedical engineering field. Once you see an interesting job description, you’ll know what kind of subjects you need to take in order to qualify for the position.
When I came in, I knew I wanted to do robotics, but I didn’t know which side of robotics I wanted to do. What really helped me was to see what was being done in companies. Based on that knowledge, I took specialized courses that would help me be a valuable addition to such an industry. It really helps to see what the scenario is before deciding which subjects to take.
When I came into CMU and after I started my internship, I knew I wanted to work after my masters. The decision to pursue a career or to indulge in further academic learning is not always an easy one. There is always a big question about the right path to take in one’s life. I think the one thing is not to get stressed out when you are in that situation.