Lisette Miller

Lisette Manrique Miller

Senior Mechanical Engineer
Providence, RI, United States
Lisette Miller
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With over 8 years in medical device design R&D, Lisette has developed surgical systems with applications in orthopaedics, neurosurgery, and soft tissue repair. Implantable materials included in these systems range from traditional biocompatible metals to novel bioresorbables, as well as drug delivery implants. Lisette has lead the development of an enhanced electrosurgical bipolar forceps line, and contributed to a disposable instrument design for suture deployment, a fixation system for treatment of spinal deformity, and a diagnostic system for identifying degradation of intervertebral discs.
Bachelor of Science, Biomedical Engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute Master of Science, Biomedical Engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • I am willing to serve as science fair judge or other temporary volunteer at a local school.
  • I am willing to host a field trip to my place of employment.
Answers by Lisette Manrique Miller

Mara, To reflect on your words, what's most important about how you make a living is that you have a passion for what you do. If you're enjoying engineering feel that it is a good fit for your career, then keep going! Your background in psychology biology is a GREAT fit for medical device design. The FDA is more-than-ever focused on ensuring that appropriate usability studies are conducted before medical devices are approved for use in the market. That means that we need to be able to capture both the patients' and clinicians' needs, and design a product that not only functions well, but is safe to use too. Getting a degree in engineering is a good foundation for your technical background, and you may leverage your prior experience as a lens for bringing human factors into your designs. It is realistic to become an engineer later in life if you're willing to make the sacrifices associated with starting new in any career. Consider that you may be starting at a modest salary, and that compared to your peers you'll be working on more basic assignments early in your engineering career. But life experience and maturity will likely allow you to progress quickly. Also getting hands-on experience in industry is critical to obtaining a job after you graduate. Apply for internships, co-ops, or part-time work whenever possible, within the industry which interests you most. If paying jobs aren't available, consider volunteering to get initial experience. Lastly, be aware that most engineering workplaces remain to be male-dominated, which may be different than what you're used to. The ratio of women to men in engineering classes is often higher than that in industry, so don't be misled by the gender balance in your school. This imbalance in industry is not necessarily negative; just something you should be aware of, or become familiar with, especially if this type of work environment is new to you. Best of luck with the rest of your classes. Stick with it! We need more women engineers out there. Lisette

Dear Haley,

I'm glad that you are investigating this further (that in itself is a mark of an engineer). Try to think of engineering as the greater art of problem solving. So maybe you don't sit at home taking apart your phone, or fixing a broken kitchen appliance, that's OK. Consider the things that DO interest you and how engineering might apply to those topics.

Think of dance. Dance is not only the physical art of choreographed movement; it can also be broken down and analyzed to understand why and how it works. When you dance you must be constantly aware of your center of gravity, the friction between your body and the floor, and the angle and height at which you leap. These are all topics covered in Physics and Kinematics, which are the basis of Mechanical Engineering.

If you had an interest in studying motion (within Mechanical Engineering) you could:

help design video games, in which an athlete's true swing or kick is measured by sensors and then translated to his/her character
design a prosthetic limb for a dancer, who also happens to be an amputee

While majoring in Engineering might seem like the obvious fit, considering your academic strengths, don't rule out other options. My best friend in high school and I took many of the same AP and honors classes to prepare for college, and we both had great success in math and science. She happened to be a dedicated dancer, like yourself. While I pursued Engineering, she went on to study business and finance, and now has a successful career working in advertising at a very prestigious corporation. The key here is to find where your strengths & interests overlap, and to make sure you are passionate about whatever it is that you choose.

Best of luck to you in Engineering - or wherever else your journey may lead.


Dear Elyssa,

I can completely relate to your plight on this particular topic. Since beginning my career in the medical device industry it has been something that I've struggled with often. I believe the desire to beneficially impact those around you is entirely natural; and you seem to be especially passionate about this task.

Based on my personal experience, I do believe that you'll be able to have a 'direct and personal level of interaction' with your customers in both the medical and engineering professions. The challenge within engineering is that your interaction with the patients who receive or use your devices (be it an implant, monitor, or surgical instrument) is usually limited to observing procedures in the Operating Room or the ICU. I think the important thing to consider as an engineer is that the patient isn't your only customer! …you can't forget the surgeon, the scrub nurses, and your internal customers, such as your marketing partners etc. As an engineer, it is an essential part of your job to gain a thorough understanding of the Voice of the Customer (VOC) so that you can develop the most safe and effective product for the benefit of the patient. It is likely within this type of role, that you'll have much more interaction with the surgeons and nurses than with the end user (patient) themselves. Outside of procedures, you have the opportunity to meet with surgeons during conferences, training courses / cadaver labs, and other scheduled meetings.

I have worked for 3 major, corporate medical device companies within my career and have found that if you seek out opportunities to interact with the surgeons who utilize your devices you will certainly be granted that chance. If you are not proactive about this then the customer interaction will lie solely with the sales and please don't hesitate to contact me with any further questions.