GMI Student Perspectives | Hannah Jackson: Zipping Through The Summer

Reflections from Global Medical Innovation MBE students.

Lamiya and I in scrubs for clinical observations (left). The front entrance of Hologic - the medical device company I currently work at (right).

It is the end of week 6 in Costa Rica, and Houston seems like a far-off memory. I am excited that we still have 4 more weeks to explore and grow as engineers but I also miss Rice and the one state I thought I never would - Texas. I miss Texas barbecue and hamburgers the size of my face; I miss the Bu-cee’s off I-10 as you head towards Baytown; I even miss the scorching Houston heat. I feel as though my time in Costa Rica will be just long enough to enjoy the beach, perfect my spanish, and form a growing appreciation for my Texas home.

One thing that will make me sad to go back home, however, is saying goodbye to the work I have grown so fond of. When I started my internship at Hologic 4 weeks ago, I was very skeptical about my project. My supervisor, Juan, explained that a device the company was producing externally needed to be manufactured in-house and so a tolerance analysis of the drawing used to make the device needed to be done in order to ensure that the newly manufactured parts would fit together. This sounds right up an engineering student like me’s alley but the task seemed daunting as I had never done tolerance analysis before and didn’t even know what it entailed. Now, after devoting countless hours to learning about tolerance stackups I can say I am almost an expert in the field (not really there is so much more to tolerancing but I can pretend right) and I am even in the process of proposing a design change to the device after finding a tolerance flaw in the current design. I am proud of the strides I have been able to make in only 4 short weeks and it is very satisfying to see tangible results of all of my work up till now.

My internship has not been the only thing keeping me busy these past weeks; our cohort started doing clinical observations every friday at the public hospitals in San Jose. I have enjoyed this part of the program the most as I have gotten up close and personal with patients while observing procedures and surgeries and have even been squirted with blood on multiple occasions. Being so close and seeing every minute detail of a procedure is something I could never hope to do in the U.S. due to the strict regulations and protocol. This has been a huge plus as it has helped me discover needs in certain procedures and devices that I would not have been able to see had I been shadowing back home. The doctors here are also more than happy to help and to answer any questions I have during the procedures, although sometimes there is a language barrier since my spanish is mediocre at best.

While work has taken up most of my time on the weekdays, I have still been able to have fun on the weekends. Each weekend except this past one, my cohort has traveled somewhere new in Costa Rica. Two weekends ago we drove 3.5 grueling hours through the mountains to reach the city of Monteverde, which is known for its rare cloud forests. While there, we got to zipline at one of the most famous zipline parks in the world and we tried some of the famous monteverde coffee at local coffee shops. The weekend before Monteverde we hiked around Irazú - the highest active volcano in Costa Rica. The bright blue lake at the center of its crater was very bizarre to see but beautiful nonetheless.

One of my favorite parts about traveling and working in Costa Rica isn’t just the skills I am gaining or the amazing sights I have been able to see, it is also the awesome people I am getting to know during my time here. There are 7 people living and working in Costa Rica together although there are 10 of us in the program altogether. Every trip we go on I get to learn more about the amazing engineers I am going to be spending most of my time with this upcoming year. For example, I have learned that Luc hates vegetables, Suzannah speaks really good spanish, Erik is afraid of heights, Eddie has good taste in music, Genevieve puts vinegar on all her food, and Lamiya carries dates around to snack on, and if you are lucky she will offer them to you - causing you to instantly become addicted and go to the store like 3 times a week to buy more.

Hannah Jackson, 2019-20 Cohort, MBE in Global Medical Innovation