Medical Engineer

Photo by Duane Zehr

By Matt Hawkins
February 10, 2015

Thanks to two years of internship experiences at a former local medical technology startup, Jacob Abou-Hanna ’15 wants to dedicate his life to enhancing quality of life by improving medical equipment and processes.

The biology and mechanical engineering major from Peoria has worked for Peoria NEXT Innovation Center startup Endotronix in his spare time the past two years. Those experiences have placed Abou-Hanna at the convergence of health care and engineering.

“To be able to work in the middle of both fields is priceless because it is very insightful to see how the two interact,” he said. “There are so many opportunities for improvement in medicine, and I think an engineering approach, along with medical expertise, is a step in the right direction. Progress is almost inevitable when you combine the two mindsets, which is my goal.”

Abou-Hanna’s interest in biomedical research began the summer of 2012, when he stumbled into a discussion with mechanical engineering professor Dr. Martin Morris. A week later, Abou-Hanna added a mechanical engineering major to his biology courses. He interned at Endotronix the following semester.

While at the company, Abou-Hanna has seen a new world of health care developments and job opportunities he never knew existed. He has traveled the globe to meet with companies and researchers. He also learned the Food and Drug Administration’s rigorous device approval process. As a result, he found a multitude of career opportunities that transcend boundaries he thought existed between medicine and engineering.

“It’s an awesome experience,” Abou-Hanna said. “Because it’s a small company, I am expected to work independently and teach myself on many aspects of the project.  ”

Over time, Abou-Hanna developed problem-solving skills and the ability to make quick decisions under pressure. As classroom knowledge met practical application, he realized he could make meaningful contributions to a company despite his youth. Early hesitance eventually gave way to calm confidence. 

“At first, I was a little intimidated by people who had years of experience and doctorates,” he said. “This winter, I’ve made it a point to say ‘yes’ to everything unless it was too far out of my scope. I trusted I could figure out things and I’ve come through.” 

As graduation nears, Abou-Hanna hopes his experiences will open the door to two more opportunities — a job at Endotronix and medical school in 2016. A full year at the company will enable him to tackle more complex projects as he prepares for medical school.

These next two steps will firmly place him in the career path for which he’s passionate — using technology to make people’s lives better.

“As an aspiring medical doctor with a mechanical engineering background, I hope to be in the middle of the processes that improve the field of medicine,” Abou-Hanna said. “The field of medicine is headed in a great direction where two disciplines are working together. I can't wait to be an integral part of it.”