By Michele Tallarita ’12
Bridget Hentz ’12 (Ambler, Pa.) thought it was cool when some of her own ideas became part of the design of cutting-edge heart surgery technology. But it was even cooler, she says, to see the devices she helped design fired into a beating heart and doing exactly what they were supposed to do.
Hentz, along with Scott Gordon ’12 (Bethlehem, Pa.), Andrew Wilson ’12 (Beaver Meadows, Pa.), and Chris Whitman ’12 (New Hope, Pa.), interned with Micro Interventional Devices (MID), Inc., this summer. Headed by owner and founder Michael Whitman ’82, MID pioneers technologies for treating structural heart disease. Through its innovations, the company is reducing operating times and simplifying complex surgical procedures.
Hentz, a mechanical engineering major, worked mainly in the research and development department, helping with designs and modeling parts on advanced computer programs like ProEngineer.
“I truly hope that my work over the summer has helped what I believe would be a great advancement in heart surgery,” she says. “I think this has the potential to make a big impact on the market and I am excited to have helped.”
Gordon, another mechanical engineering major, found himself playing a role in far more projects than he expected.
“I couldn’t pin down my work here to one specific category, because I’ve had the opportunity to work on so many projects, like researching different material options, assigning tolerances to part specifications, and even working in the lab with pigs’ hearts,” he says.
His favorite part about the job was having a hand in MID’s product Permaseal, a technology designed to create an access site for structural heart repair procedures, such as transcatheter aortic valve implantation. Gordon engineered improvements to Permaseal, sometimes designing parts “completely from scratch that will actually be implemented,” he says.
Wilson, a chemical engineering major, was involved in designating the materials to use in order for the devices to perform properly, as well as getting them Food and Drug Administration approval and a CE mark, a requirement for products placed on the market in the European Economic Area. Aside from this, he learned about the business world.
“I have a good understanding of how much work it takes for a startup company to succeed and the work ethic needed to make it successful,” he says.
Business was the name of the game for Whitman. An economics and philosophy major, he completed a wide range of financial analyses for MID, got a crash course in early-stage financing, and helped encourage investment in the company. He learned the most, he says, when traveling with management to present to potential investors.
“In doing this, the financials I prepared proved vital, which was rewarding. I also enjoyed the firsthand experience of pitching to [venture capital investors] and other firms,” he says.
All of the interns were motivated to partner with Michael Whitman.
“Working with a Lafayette alumnus has been very exciting because I’ve gotten to see the kinds of things that my education might allow me to do with a bright idea and a lot of determination,” says Gordon. “Additionally, it has just been generally nice to know that Lafayette alumni care so much about giving back to the school, and I hope to provide the same opportunity to others in the future.”
Whitman was an economics major at Lafayette. Over the summers, his connections to alumni helped him get jobs at places like Victaulic—a mechanical pipe-fitting company in Easton—and at the City of Easton’s sewage treatment department. These experiences taught him “the value of hard work,” he says. They also inspired him to provide internships to Lafayette students, which has proved to be a rewarding experience.
“We have found that these young adults are capable of serious contributions,” says Whitman. “We treat them like full-time employees and we ask a lot from them. We always get a lot in return.”