(Interns Davis Ouedraogo and Jackie Nguyen)

Biomedical Science Major Davis Ouedraogo started an internship at Innovative Surface Technologies (ISurTec) this summer and took up the mantle on a coating project that was spearheaded by another intern the year prior. His task: continue development on a lubricated coating for ureteral stents designed to prevent crystal formation and kidney stones. Thanks to the efforts of the SciTech students that ISurTec hired to develop this project, this small lab is now moving forward and preparing for the stent coating’s first animal trials.

“The students really help us move projects along,” said ISurTec’s Director of Science and Engineering Kristin Taton. “They give us an opportunity to do a deep dive into certain areas that are fairly short but in-depth where they can learn information we wouldn’t necessarily explore otherwise.”

Founded by Patrick Guire, Ph.D, ISurTec has relied on the SciTech Internship Program to hire STEM interns since 2018. This year, in addition to Ouedraogo, they also welcomed Jackie Nguyen, a material science major, to their team. Nguyen worked closely with ISurTec’s Quality Manager Briana Murphy as an analytical chemistry and quality assurance intern. For the past few months she’s sharpened her lab skills by conducting raw material studies and setting up their melting point procedure.

“I really like the stuff that I do with melting point,” Nguyen said. “When we got the melting point apparatus I was really excited about it. Just the fact that I went through the manual and came up with the procedure to work it and the calibration, it kinda feels like my baby.”

“Right now, we really want to figure out these raw materials studies,” Murphy explained. “Because when we have materials coming in for production, we want to make sure they’re good enough in order to make a good product. So Jackie has been instrumental in that process. She’s really added to it in terms of the melting point, viscosity and making sure the data is repeatable.”

Guidance and collaboration
ISurTec’s company culture has gone a long way to establish a friendly and stress-free working environment for its interns. So much so that the guidance and support that Nguyen found here has helped her affirm that this type of work may be something she wants to do full-time.

“I feel very inspired when I see people’s projects or hear about their thought process,” Nguyen said. “The people here are always coming up with ideas that I’ve never even thought about. I think they don’t realize that just by doing their job, they’re inspiring me to explore certain paths. Especially with their willingness to teach and their patience. It isn’t said enough how much I appreciate everyone here.”

Ouedraogo was especially grateful for the exposure he received while working in the lab, getting trained on new devices and software, and working closely with the lab technicians to solve problems when they arose.

“I like that I can ask direct questions,” Ouedraogo said. “For instance, when you run an experiment it’s not guaranteed that it’s going to work all the time. And when it doesn’t work, it’s our job to find out why so it can work next time.”

Growth through opportunity
“From a management perspective, we’ve been extremely fortunate that all of the interns we’ve had have been exceptional young students and have applied themselves with great diligence over the course of the summer. Their commitment is beyond expression,” said Wayne Vander Vort, ISurTec’s CFO. “My personal belief is that we as an employer have an obligation to assist as much as we can in the educational processes and the continuation thereof for these young students.”

Few have been more grateful for that opportunity than Nguyen and Ouedraogo. “As a student, being able to come here has been such a valuable thing,” Ouedraogo concluded. “I can’t say how amazing this has been for me. The interactions we get with the employees makes the experience at this company so much better. When you come into an environment that is relaxed but also strict about the work that allows you to grow as a person.”

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