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Department: Chemical Engineering

Rea Chemical Engineering

Susan Rea ’00

Senior R&D Engineer, Medtronic Vascular

Embracing Princeton’s resources

I have always been interested in sciences, learning how things work, making things, and solving problems, so engineering was the area in which I knew I wanted to major. I also had potential plans of medical school, so I chose chemical engineering with certificates in engineering biology and in materials science as a good combination of interesting information that would give me many options.

Although balancing classes, two varsity sports, and campus jobs often made life busy, engineering was a great way to make lifelong friends and learn to work with others to find solutions that initially appeared impossible, and there was always time for fun, too. The professors in the chemical engineering department were very accessible and helpful, and while I don’t remember the exact intricacies of fugacity, I know that many of the lessons that I learned are still useful for me today. With their support I was able to complete my class requirements early and spend my junior spring semester at the University of Melbourne, returning to complete my thesis in my senior year and enjoy the responsibility and interaction with faculty on the new level that this work entailed.

Research with a medical application

After graduation, I continued my international exploration with a short internship in Tokyo and four years in England as a graduate student at Cambridge University. I completed a Ph.D. in materials science looking at ceramic/polymer composites for bone replacement, and a postdoc in the engineering department running finite element modeling computer simulations of electrical conduction in the heart. Cambridge was a great experience on many levels with so much history, great opportunities to travel around Europe, and even a chance to continue playing soccer (or football, as I learned to call it), twice reaching the F. A. Cup final with Charlton Athletic.

Since November 2004, I have been back in California working as an engineer at Medtronic Vascular, first in the science and technology department on next-generation drug-eluting stents, and now in the endovascular innovations department on stent graft treatments for aortic aneurysms. I enjoy the intellectual challenges of my job and the knowledge that the devices I am helping to develop will truly improve the lives of people around the world. My studies as a chemical engineer have allowed me to go through many different doors, with a good general knowledge and approach to analysis, problem solving, and group work that have certainly helped me to take on any challenges and always continue to grow. I truly believe that as long as you continue to follow the path that interests you the most, opportunities will be there for the taking. I will be looking forward to whatever other directions the future may bring, and will always be thankful for the start that I was given as an undergraduate ChemE.