TechNation and Penn State’s College of engineering partnered last year to create an essay competition to recognize dedicated students in the school’s Biomedical Engineering Technology program. Student Jamie Connelly was awarded this year’s scholarship.
The award is named for Myron Hartman, Penn State’s Biomedical Engineering Technology program director, who
is known for his dedication to the field. Hartman was a member of the first graduating class of Penn State’s Biomedical Engineering Technology program. After working in the field for many years, Hartman returned to his alma mater to teach the next generation of biomeds and to pass on the knowledge and experience he has gleaned over the years. In addition to teaching at Penn State, Hartman serves as a consultant for DITEC and writes a monthly column for TechNation.
Hartman screened the essays were screened for requirements and then passed them along to the TechNation staff for review. Essays were judged based on creativity, organization and writing skills. Connelly’s essay begins below.
By Jamie Connelly
I stand at yet another crossroad in my life. Before me lies graduation from the Biomedical Engineering Technology program at Penn State University and the bright future it promises. Behind me lie so many things: joy and hardship, prosperity and loss. I am so thankful to be at this place in my life. My circumstances have not always been so optimistic.
I stood at a very different crossroad in the fall of 2007. I was on the verge of losing my house and my business due to my husband’s drug addiction. There was an escalation of emotional abuse, as well as the beginnings of physical abuse. I made a decision that would change my entire life. Early one morning, while my husband was out of the house, I gathered some clothes and the two most precious things in my life, my beautiful boys, and I ran.
I will never regret my decision to leave, and to give my boys the best possible life. However, it was a painful choice, and it created many difficulties. I lost my house, my business, and almost all of my possessions. I had to find employment to provide for my children and myself. This presented a challenge; I had been a stay at home mom for three years. I had then started a roofing company with my husband and had worked alongside him laying shingles as well as managing the company. All that was gone; I needed to think about our future.
While still in high school, I had taken classes at a vocational technical school. I took courses in electricity, fiber optics and networking. Since I had some background in soldering and working on circuit boards, I concentrated my search for job postings that were advertising for electronics assemblers or technicians.
Fortunately, a friend was hired at a start-up company that was manufacturing a new type of liquid oxygen concentrator and portable oxygen units. I was hired as an electronics technician. I loved my job. It was here that I got my first taste of engineering. Since the company was a start-up company, I was able to work in quality control, make suggestions on product design and trouble shoot problems. Even though I loved my job, I needed to increase my income in order to provide for my children.
I made the decision to further my education at this point. Obtaining a degree would give me more options and opportunities, now and in the future. I originally began an Electrical Engineering program at another university, but felt that this field would not give me the type of hands-on application that I was looking for.
I had attended a Women in Engineering camp at Penn State University when I was in high school. One of our projects was to build a pacemaker. This prompted me to investigate Penn State University’s website. I found the Biomedical Engineering Technology program, and I knew I had found my future career.
I enrolled at Penn State University, and began the Biomedical Engineering Technology program in the fall of 2010, at the New Kensington campus. I absolutely love the learning experience. I have been fortunate to work for my professor, and was given the chance during my first year to take apart and study some of the equipment in the lab. My professor is phenomenal. He goes above and beyond what I ever expected. He is always available for questions or comments, and he treats his students like family. He constantly networks to make special programs available to his students and to keep students informed of job opportunities.
Things have not been easy. It is difficult to juggle my studies and coursework and assist my children with their homework and activities. Both my children have special needs; my oldest son has an Autistic Spectrum disorder known as PDDNOS. My younger son has ADHD. The time I have put into therapy with my children and with other special needs children has enabled me to be more compassionate and less judgmental toward others. You truly never know what someone else is going through until you walk a mile in their shoes.
Sometimes I feel like my walk has been a million miles. But each step has been taken with the love and support of my sons, my family and my professors. And each step has taken me closer to fulfilling my dream. Soon I will be able to say, “I am a Penn State graduate, with a degree in Biomedical Engineering Technology.” My journey is just beginning.