Department of Engineering Science


Sarah Milsom

Bachelor of Engineering (BE) in Biomedical Engineering / Bachelor of Arts in French, (2013)

Photograph of Sarah Milsom

Associate Consultant (February 2013)
Laurence, Evans and Koch (LEK), Sydney, Australia

 

At Diocesan School in Auckland, I was unable to follow a particular path. I loved calculus, statistics, chemistry and physics and studied them to a scholarship level. However most of my time was spent pursuing musical and theatrical interests. I was in almost every musical group the school had to offer, I took drama at school and performed in school shows, I was a part of the New Zealand Secondary Students Choir for my last two years of school and travelled with them to China to compete in the world choral Olympics. I often questioned the value of splitting up my time over such diverse interests and felt perhaps I was spreading myself too thinly, however, the alternative of choosing one thing to focus on seemed far worse. On reflection, it was my broad spectrum of interests that paved the way to where I am now.

After school I felt I had found my feet in a few areas but didn't have the passion or confidence to throw myself into any one of them, so I chose to take a gap year to the UK. There I worked out I wanted to help people, in a hands on capacity and, believe it or not, I found I missed maths a great deal. So I decided to do engineering at The University of Auckland with a conjoint in Arts majoring in French.

Once at university my interests diversified once again, getting involved in university theatre productions and music groups and taking positions on student committees. By the end of the year I had to decide on a specialisation and I chose Biomedical Engineering based on a growing interest I had for medical innovation. I didn't take much time to find out what the course contained, or the kind of pathways it would lead me down and as a result didn't know what to expect.

Over the next four years I was pleasantly surprised time and time again with how much I loved my specialisation and it very quickly grew from my course to my passion.The work was hard but incredibly rewarding and I started to find I was good at most of it and was able to relax and enjoy what I was learning. The department is filled with wonderful people, from classmates to lecturers and professors, they all wanted to share their passions and experiences with me and I developed a number of close relationships.

My Part IV project was the greatest learning experience I had in my degree. Working independently helps you to really discover your strengths and weaknesses. I worked on developing a novel, flat actuator to be used to measure the passive stiffness of women's pelvic floor muscles. For me, the very real medical need combined with the interesting and diverse set of challenges I would have to overcome made it the perfect project. It also really solidified my desire to develop medical devices as a career.

Over summer holidays I worked in a number of different places. I spent one summer at the medical school working with a neuroendocrinologist doing work with DNA to investigate the genetic predisposition for obesity. In another, I worked for the Auckland Bioengineering Institute setting up a whole heart testing rig. During my last two years of university I worked for Adept Ltd, a plastics manufacturing company who have a medical subsidiary that develop plastic medical devices, often working with clinicians to address interesting and important medical needs. It was here that I was exposed to the challenge of designing for developing nations, as often we were approached by clinicians with a low resource operating environment in mind for their device. This really excited me as it made for interesting design constraints and added a real sense of purpose to a project.

At the end of my fourth year, I started looking for graduate positions. I was encouraged to interview for management consulting firms in Australia and New Zealand due to the rigorous and interesting interview process which would provide good experience, if nothing else. I was fortunate to be offered a position at one of the world's top management consulting companies, LEK, and after much consideration decided to take the offer as an opportunity to diversify my experience on a path less trodden and to grow my business knowledge that I can later apply to my engineering career.

In the last few months I have been involved in a pilot programme run through The University of Auckland called "Engineers in Clinical Residence", which allowed me the opportunity to see medical devices being used in a hospital setting with the objective of finding projects that will look to improve on what was seen.

I still don't know where all this will lead me but I have become sure of my interests and abilities in biomedical engineering, particularly in design for developing nations, and I intend to steer my future in this direction.