UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering University of California San Diego
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Internship Dream Team
Jacobs School Students Make ‘UCSD Smart’ Battery Pack for Artificial Heart

(l-r) Jay Joseph, Terrance Pong, Jason Tongbai, and Andrew Nguyen

In a town known for universities such as MIT and Harvard, one company is raving about a group of students from the Jacobs School. Bioengineering students Jay Joseph, Terrance Pong and Jason Tongbai, and computer engineering student Andrew Nguyen recently returned from a 10-week internship at a Boston-based company called ABIOMED, which makes medical devices for people with varying degrees of heart failure. In a new twist on the traditional summer internship, the students worked as a team, each with his own area of technical specialty, to improve the external battery system which powers AbioCor®, the implantable replacement heart.

"The UCSD team was tasked with making the external system more patient-friendly," explains Dr. Robert Fasciano, AbioCor Program Manager. "They developed algorithms to make the user interface communicate more effectively with the external battery, and clearly display that information to patients. Now, the LCD-based system developed by the UCSD students will give a specific amount of time with regards to battery life so that patients can better manage vital life-sustaining portable energy sources." Fasciano says the team also incorporated an alarm and flashing light into their design.

According to Joseph, the team's appointed leader, the AbioCor project provided handson experience and responsibility: "It merged electrical, mechanical, computer and bioengineering, exposing us to a number of skills outside of our majors - even things as simple as soldering. We saw firsthand how these different aspects of engineering are tied together."

For ABIOMED, prior interns tended to work independently on separate projects over two semesters. This marked the first time that students were brought in as a team to work on a single project for the summer. The result — the halls of ABIOMED are still ringing with praise for the successful Jacobs School group.

"They performed with excellence and exceeded their original team goal on time," says Dr. David Lederman, ABIOMED's CEO. "We hope that some of them will choose to come back to ABIOMED after graduation."

For now, the team plans to continue their development work remotely from San Diego. And the Jacobs School intends to use this successful experience as a model for future student team internships at partner companies. For more information, contact Anne O'Donnell, director of the Corporate Affiliates Program at odonnell@ucsd.edu.