Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness. Caused by an excess of fluid within the front chamber of the eye, it creates a pressure build up that inhibits vision. MicroOptx’s device drains that excess fluid and reduces the pressure. The process was developed by Dr. David Brown, the Former Head of Ophthalmology at the University of Minnesota, and the device itself, which can barely be seen on the tip of your finger, was fabricated in-house at MicroOptx’s lab in Maple Grove, Minnesota.

Biomedical Engineering Major Anika Kaura got the opportunity to help MicroOptx build their prototype device when she interned with them last summer. In addition to assisting with device manufacturing, inspection and packaging, Kaura was given her own project which involved running tests to see how flexible the product was. Kaura experimented with different designs, collaborating with one of MicroOptx’s engineers, and built the fixture  for the test herself.

“I like working with my hands, so whenever we manufacture the device, that’s super fun for me,” Kaura said. “The projects I’ve been working on are more research and development based, and so it’s been interesting to see what research we can find and what information we can collect. This internship has really taught me how the industry works, and that was my goal going in.”

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As a medical device startup, hiring an intern for the summer gave MicroOptx an extra pair of hands to help as they made their way through clinical trials. The personal impact, however, was the opportunity to bridge the gap between school and industry, giving Kaura the valuable experience she’d need before entering her field.

“Interns breath new life into the process,” said Aaron Cohen, then VP of Engineering and Manufacturing. “I like our approach, and it seemed to work well with our first set of interns. We really try to incorporate them as a full-fledged member of the team. They wear all the same hats that we do.”

Being included in so many aspects of the process, Kaura said, helped her to learn and absorb so much more than she had in the classroom. “Knowing you can develop ideas based on what you think will work, that’s freedom,” she added. “And those moments when something finally does work, it’s really exciting.”

“R&D is very empowering in that way,” Cohen agreed. “Trying and trying until something works, and when it does, then that motivates you until the next ah-ha moment.”

Of all the skills she developed and the techniques she learned during her internship, one of the best takeaways, she said, was knowing the good they were doing through their work.

“It means a lot. I knew I wanted to work in the medical field, but I didn’t see myself becoming a doctor, so I thought biomedical engineering was a really good option. Working here has shown me that there are multiple avenues to explore when you are trying to find a solution to a problem. It’s great seeing Aaron get excited over the work and I love knowing that I get to contribute and make an impact.”