Alex Cruz is a doctoral student in biomedical engineering from New Jersey. He studies tissue engineering approaches to calcific aortic valve disease under the guidance of Jonathan Butcher at Cornell. Read more about Using tissue engineering approaches to better understand cardiovascular disease
Kristin Brune, M.Eng. 2018
Hometown: Sacramento, CA
BME Degree: M.Eng. 2018
Why did you choose Cornell?
I chose Cornell for many reasons. Cornell is known for academic excellence, but also it has a beautiful campus and is in a beautiful location with a lot of outdoor activities. And, apparently I gravitate towards small college towns! (I got my undergraduate degree from UC Davis.) And in particular, I chose Cornell for its BME M.Eng. program, which encourages a breadth of coursework, multiple “tracks”/emphases, and has a focus on innovation, supported by renowned faculty and researchers.
Why did you choose biomedical engineering?
I always thought that I wanted to go to medical school, but I grew up in a family of engineers and innovators and always loved building and creating things. After my undergraduate degree, I decided that I wanted to pursue engineering and that medical school wasn’t the right path for me, but still wanted to be involved in the healthcare industry and help positively impact patients’ lives. BME was the perfect intersection. I also really appreciated how broad the field of BME is and how it opened up the possibility of pursuing many different career paths. It has been so rewarding being a biomedical engineer and I couldn’t be happier with my choice!
What have you been up to since graduating?
After graduation, I was selected for a biodesign fellowship at the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas. Over the span of a year, myself and my two teammates (a general surgeon and an MBA) used the biodesign process to uncover unmet needs and develop a solution/start a company to address one of those needs. We performed 350+ hours of observations in 8 different specialties, generating a list of 400 unmet needs. The unmet need that we ultimately chose was postoperative ileus, and we developed a neuromodulation device to address the need and spun out a company, called CNX Medical.
Currently, I’m a Technical Innovator at W.L. Gore & Associates in their Medical Products Division, where I am a part of the Front End Innovation process in Gore’s “internal startup division”. In my role, I explore new opportunities in which Gore has a potential strategic fit/can apply their technologies, in both existing and emerging markets.
How did your Cornell degree prepare you for what you are doing now?
From the critical thinking skills I learned while discussing and debating the most cutting-edge literature articles in the “Engineering Principles for Drug Delivery” and “Immuno-engineering” courses to the biodesign/innovation and engineering skills I gained through the BME M.Eng. project/course, every experience I had and class I took had a great impact on my educational and career development. I was also able to develop business acumen and life skills through taking “Entrepreneurship for Scientists and Engineers” and “Negotiations”, which were both such excellent, fun courses. In short, my BME M.Eng. degree taught me how to think rather than what to think, and I couldn’t have been better prepared for what I am doing today.
Favorite Cornell experience or memory?
One of my favorite memories at Cornell (aside from living out my Harry Potter dreams while studying in the A.D. White Library) was when a group of us in our M.Eng. class formed intramural soccer and inner-tube water polo teams: “FC BME” and “Water Pollo”! Much fun ensued, and these experiences really fostered camaraderie and lasting friendships that exist to this day.
What advice might you give to CornellBME students considering a similar path to yours?
Take advantage of the breadth of coursework available to you in the Cornell BME program. Take core engineering classes, but don’t forget to branch out and take business classes, or other electives that can help you make interdisciplinary connections. Be open to taking engineering coursework or participating in a project that you don’t initially think may align with your career goals (case in point: I pivoted from the goal of working in the pharma/drug delivery industry to the medical device industry due to my exposure to biodesign and my master’s project!) And last but not least, reach out to Cornell BME alumni that are in positions you find interesting! That was a critical aspect towards honing in on my career goals.
Favorite quote that helps inspire you in your work/life?
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” -Dr. Seuss