What led you to choose science and/or engineering as a career, particularly in the medical device field?

I came from a family of engineers and scientists; my father was the Chief Engineer of the Apollo 11 Command Module, and my mother was a NASA Computer. I was lucky to have tremendous support and not a little pressure to study engineering. I picked electrical engineering because it sounded reasonably interesting (and it made the most money!). I worked on the power system for the International Space Station and discovered a love for biomedical engineering when working with the astronauts and learning about their support systems. I went back for my PhD in BME and intended to work for NASA upon graduation. But the opportunity to start a new BME program at University of Arizona caught my attention, and I’m still enjoying my position over 20 years later.

What has been your most rewarding moment/accomplishment as an engineer/scientist in the medical field?

My lab designs miniature endoscopes for the early detection of ovarian cancer. The first time I saw one of my prototypes in a gynecological surgeon’s hand, successfully taking images in a patient, I was so excited. We still have a long way to go, but the tremendous advances in optics and photonics technology, as well as biological understanding of this terrible disease, are making a solution to early detection feasible.

What advice would you give to other women looking to work in biomedical engineering and science?

Biomedical engineering is an exciting field. I think because it is relatively new, there is a can-do and welcoming culture. It is one of the very few engineering fields with nearly equal representation of women and men, at least at the student level. It’s also a very broad field so I recommend figuring out what type of biomedical engineering is most interesting and concentrating coursework and training in that area. Like most fields nowadays, it is critical to get hands-on experience through internships in industry and research labs, and to independently pick up skills like data analysis or solid modeling. I tell my students that their coursework is only half of their education.

Are there other insights you would like to share?

Biomedical Engineering is by its nature collaborative — BMEs almost always work in teams with other engineers, scientists, and medical personnel. Team skills are critically important — both being a leader and being a good team member. This is another skill set not normally taught, and team dynamics are a source of frustration for almost everyone at some point. I encourage people to get experience working in teams, to seek out formal team science training, and to have plenty of mentors (they can be informal) who can provide advice.

More Interviews from our “Leading Women in Engineering & Science” Series:

More Profiles from Our “Leading Women in Engineering & Science” Series:

This article was compiled by Sherrie Trigg, Editor/Director of Medical Content for MDB. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..