In March 2019, 3DMedNet had the privilege of interviewing Amy Alexander (Mayo Clinic; MN, USA), ahead of Future Science Group's International Women's Day Twitter chat, about her motivations for moving into science as well as the importance of recognizing, celebrating and encouraging women in science.
Amy Alexander is a Senior Biomedical Engineer in the Mayo Clinic Department of Radiology’s Anatomic Modeling Lab in Rochester (MN, USA). In her role, Alexander converts 2D radiological images into 3D models and patient-specific surgical cutting guides. These life-size, patient-specific models and guides help surgeons from different specialties prepare for complex procedures. Additionally, these 3D prints form a communication bridge for patients regarding their personal surgical plan. Alexander holds a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering from the Milwaukee School of Engineering (WI, USA) and a Master of Science in Engineering Management from the Milwaukee School of Engineering Rader School of Business. Alexander has served on the SME Medical 3D Printing Workgroup (MI, USA) for over 3 years, is a member of the Radiological Society of North America’s 3D Printing in Medicine Special Interest Group (IL, USA) and is certified in Additive Manufacturing through SME. Alexander is an active member of Radiological Society of North America, Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, and SME.
What made you decide to pursue science as a career?
I was in ninth grade Biology class and we had a guest speaker who was a biomedical engineer at Mayo Clinic in Rochester (MN, US) – my hometown.
It was the first time I had heard of ‘biomedical engineering’ and she told us about how she created tools that helped surgeons improve their work in the operating room. My internal lightbulb flickered and I knew that this was a path I needed to explore.
Mayo Clinic has had engineers at the helm of medical device development for over 100 years and over that time they have worked with medical providers to improve the lives of countless patients. I had always enjoyed math and science, and the idea of incorporating patient care appealed to me from a human perspective. I hoped that I could build a career that was both intellectually and intrinsically fulfilling.
When did you first become interested in working with 3D printing?
While attending the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE; WI, USA), I was introduced to the MSOE Rapid Prototyping Center (RPC). This was in the mid-2000s and ‘3D printing’ hadn’t become a common term at that time. My senior design team member utilized the services of the RPC (material extrusion technology) to build a snap-fit casing around a printed circuit board we had designed as a part of our cricoid pressure monitor prototype. As the field developed, the interest was still there, but I didn’t pick up work with 3D printers again until early 2015 when I became the first clinical engineer in Mayo Clinic’s Department of Radiology to support the efforts of the Anatomic Modeling Lab.
It’s safe to say that my interest has now grown into a passion.
Why do you think it is important that we celebrate International Women’s Day, especially in the wider scientific community?
The first time I had heard of International Women’s Day was in March of 2011 while in Bergen, Norway training for an engineering position with NordicNeuroLab. There was a large banner in the city center, and I remember walking by and thinking about the many strong female leaders who had guided me to that point in my life. Celebrating International Women’s Day is important in the STEM community as we continue to build the female workforce and leverage the creativity, ingenuity and compassion of female professionals.
Do you have any advice for young women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)?
You can figure it out. Success is not a blanket idea, but rather a series of small achievements. Ask for help and break things down into their smallest particles. There is no problem you cannot solve.
Failure is not fatal. Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” Learn from your mistakes and continue to build upon your ability and confidence. In fact, I believe my strongest skills are in areas that I initially butchered. It’s a fantastic way to learn.
At the end of the day, make yourself proud. Mayo Angelou’s words resonate: “People will not remember what you said, they will not remember what you did, but they will remember how you made them feel.” It’s simple: be inclusive and be kind. Work hard and let your work speak for itself.
Adapted from original 3DMedNet post, accessible here.
Find out more about the 3DMedLIVE 2019 Advisory Board, via: www.3dmedlive.com