For Michael Schneider, the BME program offered the unique opportunity to integrate life sciences with becoming a helluva engineer; such a combination also afforded a wide variety of career choices. What really drew him toward the major though was modelling; the concepts found in fluid dynamics, biochemistry, and other subjects could be incorporated and applied to physiology, allowing greater understanding of the body as a dynamic system.
The BME program encapsulated the future of medicine; he enjoyed engaging with cutting edge research at Tech, rather than simply just sitting in the library studying from textbooks. Aside from the content, the BME program taught Michael to think on his feet and improvise, important considering the amount of learning done on the job in the medical field. Additionally, the program helped him optimize how he organized his thoughts, allowing him to perform tasks quickly and efficiently – another good skill to have in a sometimes high-pressure medical profession. The team oriented, project based learning classes also closely resembled future working environments, preparing him for a variety of interpersonal dynamics.
While at Tech, Michael joined a social fraternity and was one of the first vocal minors. He also worked as a photo editor for the Technique, a nice break from the demands of classes and lab work. His position there allowed him to investigate interesting topics and meet Bud Peterson, Mitt Romney, John McCain, President Obama, the Dalai Lama, and Maya Angelou, among others.
He pursued tissue engineering research with Dr. Babensee. Additionally, he worked in the Boying Lab, learning many general, useful lab practices and techniques. Tired from his lab-based, research-heavy work and desiring to more immediately see the results of his efforts, Michael accepted a summer internship in a completely different field and location – petroleum engineering, where he would work on an oil rig. The gratification was near instant, as daily he helped produce an important consumer good.
When he graduated in 2009 – a rough period to enter the work force – Michael was unsure of his career goals. A friend in Emory’s Physician’s Assistant (PA) program recommended the career to him. So he spent the next two years getting his MMSc in Anesthesiology from Emory’s School of Medicine. As a physician’s assistant (PA) for anesthesiology, Michael is in the operating room daily, seeing anywhere from one to sixteen patients. His career allows him to practice the skills he gained in BME while also getting the immediate gratification he first encountered on the oil rig, though instead of petroleum, he gets to care for patients. The change suits him much more. He has been practicing in Macon for the past year, and hopes to start his own business soon.
Michael followed a winding career path; it could have been more connected, but Tech prepared him for it all anyways. As he realized what mattered most to him, he was able to take steps toward greater career satisfaction. With the priorities he developed over the past few years, he realized that a Computer Science major with an Economics minor, and then pursuing medical school after graduating, would have suited his personal goals and interests better.
He recommends trying to maintain both short and long term goals, the former to bring joy and sustain you immediately, the latter to keep you motivated for the future and away from complacency. He’s considering returning to Atlanta and the more long-term gratification of research – the next major development in medicine could be just around the corner. He even likes the idea of sponsoring a senior design group; it’s a perfect opportunity to talk to cool BME students (not that he’s biased) and their even cooler projects, so you may even get the chance to meet him some time.
Thanks to Keely Mruk from the Georgia Tech Communications Center for writing this story!