Every year, usually early spring or late winter, a group of representatives from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at the Georgia Institute of Technology hits the road to visit different biotech companies in another part of the country.
It’s partly a recruiting trip but it’s also a promotional junket to raise awareness for one of the nation’s top-ranked BME programs.
“Basically, we’re like a commercial for Georgia Tech,” says James Rains, who directs BME’s Capstone Design program and went on this years’ trip to visit Indiana’s sprawling biotech cluster back in February. “We’re telling our story to these companies, and mostly it’s about our number one product – our students.”
In addition to Rains, this year’s group of travelers included Sathya Gourisankar, director of the Biomedical Innovation and Development master’s program, BME Professor Ajit Yoganathan, and the manager of student, alumni and industrial relations for BME, Sally Gerrish, among others.
They started in Indianapolis then worked their way around the state, south to Bloomington, then north to Warsaw – “the orthopedic capital of the world,” Gerrish says. They visited a who’s who of biomedical-oriented companies, Eli Lilly, Cook Medical and Zimmer Biomet.
“The number one purpose of the industry trip, as I see it, is to make sure these companies are aware of the great talent coming out of Georgia Tech,” says Rains. “Companies tend to hire from universities in their backyard for the most part. We’d like them to go a little beyond that, and raise awareness about our students, who are smart and have a great work ethic.”
There’s something else about the Georgia Tech student body, though, that stands out in the discerning eyes of some companies.
“Take a company like Johnson & Johnson, with its focus on diversity,” says Rains. “When we tell them that more minority engineers graduate from Georgia Tech than any program in the country, that blows them away. Then we tell them that the BME department has more women than men in the major, and that blows them away.”
For her part, Gerrish is keenly interested in recruiting companies to attend the career fairs she organizes on BME’s behalf, and Rains wants them to travel to Atlanta for the Capstone Design expos.
“Those career fairs and the expos are great recruiting mechanisms,” Rains says. “The companies come to you.”
Gerrish calls the industry trip a relationship builder, “and that goes beyond creating internship and job opportunities,” she says.
“It isn’t just about getting our students hired,” Rains adds. “We’re also looking for research collaboration opportunities.”
Gerrish says they haven’t booked the next industry trip yet, but they’re considering the Boston area because, “we always hit areas of good biotech concentration.”
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience