Alumna Starts Career with GE Healthcare



Two-thirds of biomedical engineering undergraduate students at The University of Texas at Austin pursue medical or graduate school upon earning their degrees. Erin Jackson is part of the third that chose industry. 

As a student she explored both research and industrial opportunities, participating in a research experience for undergraduates (REU) at Texas A&M University and later in an internship with GE Healthcare. Through these experiences, she learned that the business side of biomedical engineering interested her most.

"When I was working with bats in a cardiovascular lab during my REU, I wanted to know the outcomes and where the results were going. Those types of answers don’t come quickly with research, whereas when I was interning with GE, I felt more secure in knowing the direction a certain project would eventually take," she says.

As an undergraduate, Erin was involved with the biomedical engineering honor society Beta Mu Epsilon and mentoring students through first-year interest groups—organizations designed to help freshmen students acclimate to university life. Academically, she stretched her intellectual muscles by obtaining a Business Foundations certificate from the McCombs School of Business.

She spent her last summer as a college student in Milwaukee, Wisconsin working for GE Healthcare on a project to develop new CT scanners. She worked closely with design engineers and individuals who would ultimately put designs into production. Today, nearly three years later, the CT scanners that Jackson worked on in preliminary stages are close to final production, which is scheduled for later in 2011.

Jackson’s internship was followed by a job offer. After graduation, she and her then boyfriend, now fiancé, left Austin behind for GE Healthcare headquarters in Wisconsin. Both Jackson, originally a native of St. Louis, Missouri, and her fiancé, who is from Ohio, adjusted easily to the cooler winters. Their summers are spent similarly to those back in Austin—on the water. Milwaukee has plenty of nearby lakes and watering holes to rival those of Central Texas’, including the expansive beaches of Lake Michigan.

Jackson will finish her time in GE’s Operations Management Leadership Program later this year. The two-year program puts employees on four rotations that are six months in length. Jackson has worked in three different areas of supply chain operations and is currently a production supervisor for a team who is building anesthesia machines. The branch of engineering most typically found in the program is industrial, but Jackson feels her biomedical engineering degree gives her an advantage when it comes to understanding medical machines.

"The senior design course I took as an undergraduate is incredibly relevant to what I’m doing now," Jackson says, "At the time, students did not necessarily think that project management was an important skill, but everything I work with entails it, and I really learned those problem solving skills in that class."

Once Jackson finishes her rotations, she’ll work with her mentors and supervisors to find an area to be placed.So far she takes inspiration from the plant manager at the facility she’s currently working.

"It’s unusual to see a young, female plant manager," says Jackson, "And it’s even more inspiring that she’s also a former biomedical engineering major too!"

January 2011