TissX Inc., a small biotechnology company based in Plymouth, Minnesota, combines the experience of industry experts and the innovation of biomedical interns to further the development of tissue bioprosthetics. With its Class 7 cleanroom and ample lab and manufacturing space, the TissX team relies on collaboration to engineer organic medical devices for cardiac, vascular and other specialty surgeries.

“Being in a small company, we work together in a close-knit team. Everyone helps each other and we all do what’s needed to support the business,” said Bill Holmberg, Cofounder of TissX. “So it gives a nice opportunity for our interns to see the entire business from the bottom to the top.”

This year’s intern is Jonathan Newinski: a graduate student studying biomedical engineering at the University of Minnesota. When he applied for this internship on the SciTech job board, his desire to learn more about quality systems helped him stand out from the other applicants.

“We really wanted someone with that passion and we thought that Johnathan would be a great candidate to bring in,” Holmberg said.

Interns past and present  
The first week on the job was a “baptism by fire,” joked Newinski. There were quite a few quality assurance standards to read and learn, but he appreciated that it gave him a good baseline for the work ahead.

Newinski’s main project was to get an old data analytic device up and running. He wrote his own procedure, designed experiments for it, tested and implemented it. His coworker/ mentor was Justin Oliver, a previous SciTech intern now working fulltime as a TissX Project Manager.

“I’ve learned a lot more since I started,” Oliver said. “Now I’m spending most of my time with the operators actually building heart valves for the customers. On top of that, I’m also going back and testing them. So I’m seeing the whole process and learning more about everything.”

Reflecting on both his and Newinski’s progress, Oliver said, “I’m proud of how far I’ve come. And from the intern standpoint, watching Jonathan, I think he’ll be a great engineer someday. I’d be happy if TissX brought him on.”

Mistakes happen
The key to internship success, Holmberg said, is making sure the students have mentors that they can talk to and learn from. Having worked with interns for several years, he referred to them as ‘sponges,’ able to absorb whatever information you give them. But, skilled as they may be, most students are new to this, and it’s important to be flexible and understanding when things go wrong.

“Mistakes do happen,” Holmberg said. “And when they happen you just need to let someone know about it and try to learn from them so you don’t repeat the same mistake twice.”

“That’s music to my ears,” said State Representative Ginny Klevorn, who accompanied the SciTech team during their recent virtual site visit with TissX. “The fact that you’re making a space where people can talk about their mistakes is critically important. It’s a life skill that everyone needs to have.”  

Look for passion
Similar to Oliver, Newinski is interested in staying on full time after his internship concludes, adding yet another enthusiastic bioengineer to the TissX team. It’s this long-term interest in the industry and the company that Holmberg looks for in an intern.

“If you find someone who’s passionate about what they’re doing, you’re going to get more and it’ll be more worthwhile for both parties,” Holmberg concluded.

Get involved
Make an impact on a future STEM professional’s life and strengthen your talent pipeline. Start planning your internship today at scitechmn.org. At least 200 wage matches are available on a first come, first hire basis between now and August 2021.

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