Sriravali Kanthamraju is a biomedical engineer who graduated from M.S. Ramaiah Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Medical Electronics and a Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering from the Arizona State University. She now works as an Application Engineer for Medical Devices at MathWorks.
How did you become interested in Biomedical Engineering?
That’s a funny one. I never was interested in Biomedical Engineering. I dreamt of being an Indian Air Force pilot. However, my score was not good enough to secure a mechanical engineering seat, so biomedical engineering was “chosen” by my dad. I grew to appreciate the field, but I still lean toward the mechanical and controls system side of things.
Describe your educational journey. In what ways do you feel your schooling prepared you for your current work? Was there a person or any significant people that influenced your academic/career journey?
Despite not getting the option of mechanical engineering for my undergrad course work, I learned all I could about engineering and designing medical devices and its mix of multiple domains: electrical, mechanical, hydraulics, and anatomy and physiology. A combination of coursework, internship, and hospital training brought about a good understanding of what makes the industry tick and what are the different fields an engineer can contribute to :
New product development
Control systems design
Human gait analysis
It was not a single person but a multitude of examples that proved to be both a motivation and inspiration to me. The first one that comes to my mind is that of the Da Vinci surgical system by Intuitive surgical. It’s an engineering marvel and one that physicians have grown to rely on and one which has helped reduce recovery time by a huge margin. To be able to conceive such an idea and engineer it into existence is no mean feat, and to me, the whole process of creating such a machine from start to finish was something I wanted to learn and understand.
You mentioned that you struggled to find helpful sources when picking specializations in the field of Biomedical Engineering. Explain this obstacle; do you feel there are more resources for aspiring Biomedical Engineers now?
I, for one, was not sure where to look for help and guidance, and so it took me a while to find mentors and opportunities to intern. There was in front of me a host of options, but the job opportunities were very limited in India ( you don’t get hired with an undergraduate degree). That’s when I chose to pursue higher studies and learn more about the field of biomedical engineering and the industry worldwide. Grad school is no cakewalk, but you gain so much more exposure to what happens in the real world. Coupling that with coursework will help an individual pick and choose where they can contribute.
There are definitely more resources out there, and social media does a fantastic job of reaching out to students and professors, but there are people who are not aware that such resources exist, whether it’s study material, job opportunities, or even the prospect of meeting peers in conferences. And so I believe in giving back in whatever way I can so that a few may benefit from my experience and knowledge gained.
You also expressed that internships are very difficult to find. What is your advice for students seeking out experience in their fields? In Biomedical Engineering specifically?
Network. Networking is your best bet at finding opportunities. Find contacts through your professors, friends, mail professors, and volunteer in their labs. Leverage the advantage that social media has to offer. LinkedIn is specifically for professional network building, and experienced scientists and engineers are ready to guide and help the younger entrants in any field. Be polite, ask as many questions as possible, and work your way into their good books.