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December Undergraduate Engineer of the Month finds niche in biomedical

Co-op provided clarity for Robert Becker’s career goals

Robert Becker headshot

Robert “Alex” Becker, was selected as the December 2019 Undergraduate Engineer of the Month, a distinction given by University of Cincinnati’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. Becker will graduate in the spring of 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, a minor in mathematics and a certificate in computational science.  

“Within biomedicine, especially, you’re creating prosthetics, you’re creating pharmaceuticals, you are making a program to help people understand things about their body or just educational tools,” Becker said. “And I love that. I love having that direct access to make somebody’s life better.”

Becker, a University Honors Scholar, was drawn to UC’s co-op program as a way to try out different aspects of biomedical engineering before deciding what direction he wanted to take in the field. 

“Co-op has given me just incredible experience. I have contacts now in industry and in research, I have a good resume, I have experience. I’m not going into any future employer or grad school opportunity saying ‘yeah I learned this in school,’ I can say ‘yeah I did this in the field,’” he said.

Becker worked at a lab at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center for a year through a University Honors program prior to his first official co-op experience in that same lab. The research focused on behavioral analysis of genetically modified mouse models with Fragile-X Syndrome, a genetic disorder. 

He landed at Zimmer Biomet, a medical devices company, for his next two co-op rotations where he worked on the global knee team and then on the foot and ankle solutions team. Becker credits the specific experiences from his early co-ops as the reason he landed his final co-op job at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals where he worked in manufacturing and development in the Bioreactor Scaleup and Development department. Each of his co-ops incorporated Becker’s computer programming skills, which he considers a favorite hobby. 

His nominating professor, Angela Boronyak, Ph.D., noted that in the three biomedical engineering classes in which Becker was her student, he frequently stayed late to offer assistance to his fellow classmates. 

“While he would help with troubleshooting problems for other students, he never directly told them the answer, just as a truly good professor would do. Instead he would explain an issue from different perspectives until the student understood how to solve the problem,” Boronyak said. 

Despite a busy academic schedule, Becker is a UC tour guide for prospective students and volunteers both on campus and off, including working with UC’s Bearcat Coders and Bearcat Buddies to teach high school students coding, English and math skills. He also volunteers with The Loft, an LGBT community center, where he offers career guidance on resumes, interviewing and building a professional online presence. 

In helping others learn, Becker uncovered a passion for teaching, which he hopes to ultimately translate into a career as a university professor and researcher.

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Photography and videography: Corrie Mayer/CEAS Marketing