With two parents in the medical field and an older brother who attended Georgia Tech, Allison Kramer’s path toward becoming a biomedical engineer was forged early on. In true engineer fashion, when it came time to pick a university, Kramer created a cost-benefit analysis to help her decide which school she would attend.
“I only applied to universities and colleges that would give me a foundation to grow and provide me a solid platform from which to enter the professional world,” Kramer says. “When I looked at the schools I was accepted to and compared them side by side based on their merits, Georgia Tech was the hands-down winner.”
No stranger to moving, Kramer packed up her things and quickly settled into life in Atlanta. Growing up, she and her family moved from place to place following her dad’s job in the biomedical device field.
It was her father’s career that provided Kramer an inside glimpse of the many different sides of the industry.
“My dad successfully engineered the business side of several companies, managing teams of people and helping struggling companies turn around their bottom lines,” Kramer says. “But then I would watch him come home after work and help my brother with his calculus homework like it was no big deal. That showed me how multi-faceted a biomedical engineering education could be."
Now in her fifth year as a Yellow Jacket, Kramer finds it’s that versatility that keeps her engaged. An avid participant in on-campus activities, she constantly seeks out new opportunities in the academic, professional and social realm that will help her advance toward her desired career.
After graduation, Kramer hopes to secure a position in research & design, product development or quality control with a major biomedical engineering company.
“Graduate school is on my agenda, but my top priority is getting my feet wet in the industry workforce,” Kramer explains. “Ideally, I would like to pursue my graduate degree while also working full or part-time. That way, I’m still continuing to build real-world experience in product engineering, problem solving, and working on a team.”
Kramer thrives on teamwork. One of her favorite courses at Georgia Tech thus far has been Bio-Inspired Design, which calls upon teams of undergraduate and graduate students of varying majors to design a product motivated by nature or biology.
Kramer encouraged her team to pursue a product that would solve a problem. The problem on her mind? How to lower the number of women in developing nations who die during childbirth.
“The main cause of death for these women is hemorrhaging due to loss of blood. These countries don’t have the capabilities nor the supplies required to perform blood transfusions as easily as we can,” Kramer says. “I was inspired to come up with a product that could solve this problem.”
Drawing upon the knowledge of the various members of the team, Kramer’s group noted that changing the contact angle along a microfluidic chip can aid in separating unwanted particles from the fluid. It’s the same natural phenomenon that allows butterflies and other insects to easily remove debris and water from their wings to enable flight.
With this information in mind, Kramer and her team engineered a bio-inspired chip that can be used to passively separate plasma from whole blood without expending any energy.
“This technology could ultimately be used to collect blood in developing nations, so that a greater supply is available to women during childbirth,” Kramer explains.
Kramer says the concept of solving problems and creating positive solutions is the most rewarding part of being an engineer. It’s also what makes it a viable career choice.
“There are always going to be problems that need solving,” Kramer says, “and an engineer can find that solution. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my time at Georgia Tech, it’s that no problem is too large. Maybe you need to take a different approach or look at things in a new light to find the solution. That’s what engineering teaches you.”
And it’s not all about academics. Part of being successful in any field, Kramer says, is being able to step out of the lab and into the real world through networking events, office hours and face-to-face interactions.
As an independent thinker with a determined nature, Kramer says one of the most important lessons for her was learning how to ask for help.
“Sometimes you have to swallow your pride and admit that you don’t understand how to do something, whether that means asking one of your colleagues for help or scheduling an extra tutoring session with a professor,” she says. “It’s funny; once you accept that you might not have all the answers, that’s when you’re really able to open your mind to the new and innovative solutions you’ve been looking for.
Connect with Allison on LinkedIn
Written by Chris Calleri