After completing a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design at TU Delft, Sophie knew pretty quickly that she wanted to continue her studies with a focus on medical science. “I took a minor in medical science, in which I found that working in healthcare and contributing to a better quality of life actually satisfies me more than designing products that are used on a daily basis.” She transferred to a master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering and, through an internship, ended up at LUMC, where she finished her studies in the neonatology ward. “The hospital had a vacancy for a PDEng student, but they were still looking for a clinical assignment. The neonatologist with whom I worked proposed our project to them, including to me.”
According to Sophie, the best part of taking a PDEng is that you develop yourself in the broadest way possible. A position as a technician working within the technical services allows you to see multiple clinical wards and learn how everything related to technology is organized in hospitals. Sophie: “The broad and deep insight of this PDEng program is unique. It’s easier to compare the program with a traineeship than with a PhD because in the latter, you are more focused on one specific research topic. TU/e’s PDEng program also contains a solid course program which allows you to get in touch with other PDEng trainees. I found this very valuable: although we all worked in different hospitals, we had to complete the same sorts of assignments and projects. I learned how things are organized differently in other hospitals and was able to discuss my assignments with fellow trainees, which was extremely informative.”
Bridging the gap between the medical world and technology
Sophie didn’t expect to find herself taking both a PDEng and a PhD after she graduated. “I knew that my goal wasn’t to become a diehard engineer, but rather that I preferred to bridge the gap between the medical world and technology. I found it hard to think of an organization or institution where I could perform a job like this, but luckily LUMC enables me to do this very well.”
The benefit of a PDEng program is that something is designed as close to the source as possible. Sophie finds it very interesting - but also important - to work closely with healthcare and learn what is truly important by seeing the patients and the care they receive. A PDEng program teaches you the importance of working together with multiple disciplines in order to achieve proper results. “I didn’t know much about premature babies whereas my colleagues didn’t have much knowledge on how to design technology, so you really need one another to design a valuable product.”
Do’s and don’ts
Sophie would highly recommend a PDEng program at TU/e to anyone who might be considering this. “The course program has a nice set-up, and it was beneficial to share information and experiences with fellow trainees during our training days on campus. I was only on campus for my training days and did the rest of my work and assignments at LUMC, so I have not been able to use all of the facilities that TU/e offers. However, the campus is within walking distance of the central train station, which is an advantage.”
A tip that Sophie would give to prospective trainees is to take care of time management: “Make sure that you finish one assignment before you start a new one; due to the broadness of your PDEng program, you will easily end up with different assignments and projects. Although I find this hard every once in a while, it’s simply an extra challenge to tackle.” If you would like to explore how technology is applied in the healthcare, Sophie recommends taking a PDEng. If you are already certain of the research you want to conduct in a specific sub-field, a PhD program might suit you better.
Sophie recently won an Audience Award for the development of the BreatheBuddy. This was a very special moment for her. “It was an absolute honor to be nominated. I am currently still employed at this ward, which is a plus because we still talk about it.” Besides the award, Sophie has been overwhelmed by all of the laudatory reactions she’s received. Together with a nurse, Sophie has created a short video through which laymen can easily learn about her research. She is also currently designing and developing a device that will stimulate premature babies to start breathing again when an apnea occurs. During her PDEng program, Sophie registered how nurses are currently stimulating breathing and proved that mechanical stimulation can be effective as well. On the basis of these results, Sophie developed BreatheBuddy, a device that will respond directly and automatically without the intervention of a nurse. She hopes to start testing this at the beginning of next year.
As of March, 1st, 3 QME positions will be available. The QME programme is in Dutch only. Please check vacancies here.