The Internship Experience
An International Bridge Between Culture and Technology
In 2002, an engineering student approached Stefan Frembgen, President of IngMar Medical out of the blue at the annual MEDICA trade show in Dusseldorf. He was seeking an internship; IngMar Medical never had hired interns before.
Fifteen-plus years and more than forty interns later, interns from the United States and abroad are integral to the company’s corporate culture that values communication and teamwork.
Small Company Advantage
“In today’s engineering, specialization goes deeper and narrower,” Frembgen says. “But biomedical engineering has more integration of different capacities of engineering…and the ability to help people directly…For students looking for those kinds of things, a small company like ours is attractive.”
“The world is shrinking, and we are citizens of the planet, not just one country.”Stefan Frembgen, Dr-Ing, President, IngMar Medical
This may be one reason that 28 percent of interns have been women. (In the U.S., women account for 17.8 percent of engineers; in Germany, 13 percent.) It also may help to explain why—although the majority of interns have been German citizens (others have come from the United States, the Netherlands, and the People’s Republic of China)—a number have mixed cultural backgrounds—including Korean-German, Polish-German, English-German, Turkish-German and Chinese-German.
Real World Teamwork
One former intern famously clinched a job when he pointed out that he’d helped to design the QuickLung sitting on the desk of his prospective employer. “Our interns are dedicated, and they’re making a big commitment—five months to a year [one to two school terms], which gives them a longer time to complete projects.
“I don’t like to be a micromanager— more of a mentor,” Bails says. “For every internship period, I try to get an electrical and a mechanical engineer working together.”
Among other projects, Chris and Andy have collaborated on a snore module for the ASL 5000 Breathing Simulator. It mimics the effects that different snoring patterns have on the airway passage, and can be used to develop devices to treat sleep apnea. “I’m working on the mechanical setup, while Chris is creating software,” Andy says. “I like the balance between independent work and interdisciplinary teamwork. At RWTH [their university in Aachen, Germany], Chris and I worked on different floors of the same institute, but didn’t know each other because the departments were completely separate.”
Andy and Chris also have accompanied Bails on customer calls for the snore module. “The new breed of engineer needs to be able to talk about a product to marketing and communications staff,” Bails says.
“We dress a bit better when we go to see customers,” Chris—wearing a polo shirt and jeans—says with a smile. “We found that customers are very interested in the snore module. They quickly came up with other uses for our flexible design.”
After Hours Fun
IngMar Med’s location in Pittsburgh’s East End—close to Carnegie Mellon and Pitt—makes it easy for interns to walk, cycle, or take public transportation. Chris and Andy wax enthusiastically about friendships with students from a number of countries and upcoming trips to Niagara Falls and Toronto. Other interns, Petersen says, have pursued activities that include snowboarding, jujitsu, and fire breathing.
“The world is shrinking,” Frembgen says, “and we are citizens of the planet, not just one country.” Both Andy and Chris envision themselves continuing to work internationally. And when past interns meet again at their annual dinner in Dusseldorf, they can raise their glasses to a world of health and cooperation.