Yashveer was a materials engineering intern at Formlabs, the largest supplier of professional stereolithography and selective laser sintering 3D printers in the world, headquartered in Somerville, Massachusetts, USA. Keep reading to learn more about his co-op journey, what his job is like, the lessons he’s learned, and how to plan for the career you want!
How did you get to where you are today?
I study nanotechnology engineering (NE) at the University of Waterloo (UW) and I was a Materials Intern at Formlabs. Formlabs is one of the world’s leading 3D printing companies providing not only a wide range of 3D printers but also a growing library of unique resins developed in-house. My job focused on the biocompatible resins being developed at Formlabs, wherein I researched different resin blends and processing conditions while assessing their biocompatibility.
Getting to this point admittedly required a lot of work. Without a doubt, being in a co-op program at UW requires consistent effort and dedication and it is no easy feat landing an internship you are genuinely interested in. However, I realised quickly that I had to have a goal in mind of where I wanted to be, and a means by which I would achieve that goal. Ultimately, I want to research methods for 3D tissue printing. To get there, I need to build a set of transferable skills which would lend well to any form of biomaterials research (keeping options open is always a good idea). For example, tissue engineering and drug delivery use many of the skills I need, and fall under the field of regenerative medicine. Gaining experience in either one of those subfields would allow me to move back and forth as I please. In Canada, there is a high volume of drug delivery research both in industry and in academia, so naturally I found that to have a lower barrier to entry. Anecdotally, much of my past experience was also tailored to understand what is called the “bench to bedside” transition. This is where a new technology in its infancy (likely existing in a lab environment) can be developed into something mature enough to push to market. This process can take years and involves many regulatory hurdles. I have been fortunate enough to experience such a transition with drug delivery systems, from a lab, to a startup, to clinical trials, and to market. All the while, I had been building relevant skills in product development, organic synthesis, formulation chemistry, and materials characterization — all of which have helped me during my time at Formlabs.
What’s your favourite part about your job?
The work environment as well as the general attitude towards engineering was something I came to deeply appreciate. The people around me fostered learning and were there to help and educate me every step of the way should I have needed it. Solving problems or tackling projects was celebrated and thankfully there was no bureaucracy in the way of getting work done. As long as I put in the effort, the experience was very rewarding.
What skills do you need for this job? What skills did you learn in your job?
Technical wise, my work required adequate knowledge of polymer chemistry, formulation development, mechanical testing of materials, and some knowledge in cell biology and cytotoxicity. There were also some soft skills needed as well, such as organisation, time/project management, communication, and discipline.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
Sometimes, it’s okay to not be able to draw conclusions, and simply accept the data you collect for the story it tells.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about:
The amount of responsibility (even more so than other co-ops) being given to me as an intern was awesome, though it did come with greater expectations to deliver on.
The technology you’re working on?
The nuances that come with developing 3D printing resin from a consumer perspective and NOT an academic perspective (i.e. what would our customers want?).
What NE courses were helpful in your job?
NE125, NE333, NE335, NE352, and their corresponding labs (if applicable) were most helpful.
Did you imagine you’d be contributing to nanotechnology in this way?
Yes, it’s all part of the plan. If you plan it, if you have a goal, you can make an impact.
What are you planning on pursuing after graduation? Do you need a postgraduate degree for your job?
I am going to pursue graduate studies after completing my undergraduate degree. No you do not.
Any tips for getting a similar position to yours or entering a similar field to yours?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: PLAN, PLAN, PLAN. You’ll learn more from the means than you will from the end, so focus on the means by which you will get to where you hope to be. Everyone’s path is different, so it’s essential that you learn to apply your skills and experience in an adaptable way.