Biomedical engineering student driven to help others

Linda Yoder went to Tanzania with Engineers Without Borders

University of Cincinnati biomedical engineering student Linda Yoder has centered her choice of major and student activities around helping others. She served in a leadership role with UC’s Engineers Without Borders and traveled with the group to Tanzania to work on water quality projects. Yoder was named Undergraduate Student Engineer of the Month by UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. Here, she shares her UC experience on co-op and with student organizations.

Why did you choose to attend UC and study biomedical engineering?

I first started looking at engineering when there was a career project in my junior English class in high school. People usually did the project on what they wanted to do as a career and you had to talk about whether or not it was a good fit for you. I really wanted to do something that would help people in a tangible way. And my mom had always thought that I would be an engineer because I like to know how things work. So I was looking up careers I could do with that and that's what got me into biomedical engineering.

With biomedical engineering, there's only so many colleges that have that major. I did some college visits and ended up narrowing it down to the University of Cincinnati and another school. UC had the better co-op program and more support in co-op. I grew up in Richmond, Kentucky, so I am very grateful for the metropolitan rate of tuition.

What was your co-op experience like?

Linda Yoder head shot

Linda Yoder. Photo/provided.

I've co-oped at two companies. My first two co-ops I did at a very small startup called Vein360 where they reprocess and sterilize medical catheters used in varicose vein procedures so that they can be reused. These are traditionally single-use devices. In my role there I did a lot of the production work because it was such a small startup and we needed the samples for validation and testing. I also did some of the documentation around those studies, so I did write out the procedures and reports of what we had done. Really, I was just kind of a jack-of-all-trades there because it was such a small company. 

It was helpful that I got to see some of the FDA regulations process and I definitely gained experience technical writing and seeing how the reports are done. I think I learned that I don't really want to be at a very small company. I like having a community through work. I also like seeing more of initial devices going through or working on devices that you make.

I have also co-oped at Cook Medical for my last two rotations in the production engineering department. I deal with support and improvement of the processes we used to create our devices, specifically with catheters and all of the tubes. I really like it and I think I'll probably go into production engineering or maybe continuous improvement. 

I really like the bigger projects here at Cook. There was a failure that came up with a new process that we were trying and we wanted to see what had caused it and how we could avoid it in the future. So I did kind of an exploratory study on that and I'm getting the report routed through our approval system right now. I got to do all the testing myself because it was just kind of on a side project and then write the reports and that was really interesting. And and then I'm also working on a separate project to reduce the cooling time for a certain process, it should be able to be reduced from an hour to like five minutes.

What activities and student groups have you been involved with on campus?

In my first couple of years at UC, I was very involved with Engineers Without Borders. I was the treasurer and I also went on a trip with them to Tanzania where we worked on building the water systems that our fellow club members had designed. That was really interesting and I got to climb inside a water tank as part of drilling the holes in it to get the connections.

Engineers Without Borders benefits rural communities in Tanzania by providing them with things such as access to clean drinking water, sanitation structures like handwashing stations and latrines, and even new schoolhouses. As treasurer, I made sure flights, housing, ground transportation and other costs for our international implementation trips were paid for to allow our travelers to concentrate on putting our plans into practice.

I think one of the key takeaways I got from that trip was how important the critical path is where if one thing doesn't get done then the rest just won't happen and we really need to balance our workload so that someone always has something to do and they're not just sitting around waiting. I also see this in my co-ops with production lines and other things like that.

I am now more involved in Mortar Board (national honor society), where I was treasurer last year. I also joined oSTEM, which is Out in STEM, and this year I'm the president. I'll be going to the National Mortarboard Conference in August, and then there's an O4U (Out For Undergrad) Engineering Conference, so I'll be going to that. 

I have gone to the Makerspace for some manipulation of wood certifications and I'm excited to get the chance to do some woodworking projects there on campus this year. I might get another certification on their laser engraving machine. I'm also in the Makers Club.

What are your plans after graduation?

For my future career, I'll be looking for production engineering or continuous improvement, or maybe quality engineering. I think I want to be up near Iowa, which is where my grandma is and where my mom plans on moving soon when she retires. From what I've seen, there are usually a lot of opportunities in Minnesota for biomedical engineering, so I'll probably be looking in that area. And I'm going to be looking for somewhere that has a tuition assistance program, so that if I decide to come back for a master's degree that I would have assistance there. But for now I'm just going to go into industry.

I want to start looking for a full-time job for after graduation pretty soon here. I would like to get things settled so I can kind of secure a plan. But if the start date is flexible I might like to push it off a little bit and then maybe take a two-week trip around Europe. 

Featured image at top: Linda Yoder (center, wearing the hat), and other UC students and community members in Tanzania pose for a picture after completing a water project. Photo/provided.