Editor's Note: Welcome to this week's edition of STEM Student of the Week. Once a week, ECN features a student working on a degree (of any level) in engineering as part of our STEM initiative. If you know a student who would like to be featured, email me at The articles are posted every Friday.

Meet Michaelina (Micki) Dupnik, a Biomedical Engineer at Optimum Technologies, Inc. in Southbridge, MA

ECN Editor, Kasey Panetta: Hi Micki! I know you're not technically a student anymore, but your dad--an ECN reader--was so proud and excited about you that I just couldn't pass up the chance to chat. You're a 2014 grad, so we'll just let it slide this once! What was your area of focus in school?

Micki Dupnik: I graduated from Boston University in May 2014, Majored in Biomedical Engineering, Minored in Mechanical Engineering, and concentrated in Technology Innovation

 Panetta: Was engineering always a dream of yours?

Dupnik: Not until sophomore year of high school. I loved math and science since elementary school, but wasn't sure what to do with that. I was chosen among four students to go to Lockheed Martin in Mount Laurel, NJ for its Women in Engineering Day. They had engineering challenges, seminars, and a college fair with the top engineering schools. I was immediately hooked. 

 Panetta: What made you pick your program?

Dupnik: Becoming a doctor was always an interest of mine. When I learned about biomedical engineering and the behind-the-scenes work of medicine, I knew I wanted to continue in that path. I wanted to be able to design and implement medical devices and technologies to be able to help people all over the world. As for picking Boston University's program specifically, we have world renowned professors creating breakthrough technologies in healthcare. It was an honor to work under them and learn something new every day. Another reason I picked BU was because of the music program. Aside from my studies, I have been playing piano and singing for over 15 years. I definitely think my artistic side has been nothing but helpful in being a creative engineer.

Panetta: You currently work as a Biomedical engineer, but what's your dream job?

Dupnik: My dream job is working in a place where I am able to design and create medical products that can help people- where I can continue learning every day, contribute ideas, and enjoy going to work on Mondays. I am happy to say that I have found that place at Optimum Technologies!

Panetta: In that case, what's it like to work as a biomedical engineer at Optimum?

Dupnik: Optimum Technologies is a contract opto-mechanical engineering company. We're hired by various companies to give our optical expertise for their products, whether it is a 3D camera system for a robotic surgeon or a novel surgical technique for a breakthrough procedure to cure macular degeneration. Working for a consulting company is great because you are working on something different every day and there's never a dull moment. 

Panetta: What would you say to someone in middle school considering a career in engineering?

Dupnik: Try it out! Get involved in different activities that let you do hands-on work. That's where you have the most fun in engineering. It is important to challenge yourself in your science and math classes but that can only get you so far. Actually implementing what you're learning and seeing something physical that you built is extremely rewarding! If you don't like it, you can say that you tried, but I have a good feeling you won't regret it.

 Secondly, keep an ideas notebook. I started one because of a class in college (Shout out to Professor Dan Cole at BU!). I am constantly writing innovative ideas in my journal no matter how silly they are. You see the world in a different way, trying to come up ideas how you can improve every day activities. It gets you thinking like an engineer and you never know if one of those ideas could be worth something one day! 

Panetta: What makes engineering a great career?

Dupnik: Engineering is a gateway into many different fields of work. It gives you this mindset that no other discipline can give you. You learn to approach situations from different points view and solve problems in a unique way. You become a valuable asset to any company and can transition from an engineering position to anything you'd like.

Panetta:  Who do you look up to as a role model?

Dupnik: My family is full of people that I look up to. Both my parents started in science fields and carried that knowledge with them through various jobs. My older sister was extremely artistic and ended up becoming an architect, so she set the bar high! She and parents definitely showed me that anything can be achieved with hard work and to never settle for anything but the best.

 In the field of engineering, I look up to Dr. Muhammad Zaman from Boston University. He was my lab advisor during one summer of research. In his global health lab, he strives to create innovative healthcare options that are not only accurate but cost effective. These devices are implemented in low income countries where sufficient healthcare is not available. I strive to be someone who can have that prominent effect on people across the world.

Panetta: Favorite thing about engineering?

Dupnik: My favorite thing about engineering is seeing something transition from an idea on paper into an actual piece of hardware. It's amazing to see when all your hard work, planning and designing (and then redesigning ten more times) can result in. It isn't easy, but it is the most rewarding and proud feeling to see your finished product operating how it was supposed to.

Panetta: What has engineering allowed you to do that you wouldn't have been able to do otherwise?

Dupnik:Engineering has allowed me push myself past my limits and to places I never thought I could achieve. Specifically, this past year, I worked on my senior design project with two other engineering seniors at Boston University. Our project was a device called the Sensory Substitution Glove for the Visually Impaired. It was gesture-aware device to be used in conjunction with the white cane that enabled users to detect obstacles from ground level to head-height as well as sudden drop-offs using ultrasound and infrared sensors. The user scans his or her surroundings with the glove which produces vibrational signals, warning of impediments within a one-to-two-meter range. After presenting our project at the end of the year to BU ENG Faculty, students and family, we submitted our final paper to the National Institute of Health's Debut Challenge. A few months later we were awarded 2nd place and $15,000! We attended the Biomedical Engineering Society’s Annual Meeting in San Antonio, TX to accept our award. We were extremely excited our hard work got recognized among the other competitive applicants. I could have never imagined achieving such a prestigious award without engineering.

Panetta: Your dad emailed me about you so he’s obviously really proud. Did he encourage you to pursue engineering?

Dupnik: My dad always supported me in everything I did as a kid. He definitely introduced engineering to me even before I knew what being an engineer actually meant. We always had Legos and K'nex around the house to build our creations with. We also had a wood shop in our basement, where he helped me build bird houses, American Girl doll beds, and rockets. I was definitely one of the only girls in my grade who knew how to operate power tools. I guess he planted the engineering seed in me long before I even knew!

Panetta: Did I miss anything? 

Dupnik: To any young girls interested in engineering: we need more girls in STEM related fields! You may be nervous and intimidated about pursuing a career that is particularly dominated by males. You may feel embarrassed liking math or science in school but don’t be! Science, math, and engineering are extremely interesting and if you like it, have fun and don’t think about what others may think. Your future is yours, and you get to decide how you want to live it.

Panetta: I couldn't agree more! Thanks Micki. Good luck!