September Student Spotlight - Kenzie Magnan

September 23, 2019
Ramisa Fariha

BME ScM student Kenzie Magnan started chasing after her engineering dreams when she was 9 years old, “I was one of those kids who tore everything apart. My parents got me an expensive robosapien for Christmas and within a week I’d torn it apart and started playing with the motor.”  Kenzie, from Cumberland, RI, attributes her drive and inspiration to her parents, “My dad pushed me through school and helped pay for it. He’s a firefighter EMT and a contractor, and my mom is a nurse. I always had tools around the house to play with, and I learned the medical aspects of things by asking a lot of questions.” Kenzie knew she wanted to pursue engineering, and she was inclined towards prosthetics when she was applying to colleges, “Engineering was an obvious path for me, and I loved anatomy as well. I went to Wentworth Institute of Technology to study prosthetics but then realized my passion for hardware and devices.” In her four years as an undergraduate student, Kenzie participated in three different co-ops, “We didn’t have undergraduate research opportunities, so I chose to do co-ops. I worked at Texas A&M during the summer of 2016 on shape memory foam embolization devices- for neurological and peripheral occlusion diseases. And in spring 2017, I worked as a Quality Engineer Intern at Cadence Inc. in RI. The good thing about multiple industry experiences is that I was able to realize that I am a hands-on R&D person, and I am not excited by quality control roles.” Later in fall 2017, Kenzie worked at Medtronic, CT, on a laparoscopic stapler for surgical robotic systems, “I was happy to be in the R&D realm, and perform reliability tests on the devices. One day I was working with the device and realized that the blade used in the stapler was something I used to make at Cadence! That was really cool!” This semester, Kenzie is doing another co-op as a part of our master’s program - this time at DePuy Synthes a Johnson and Johnson company based out of Massachusetts, “I work on an endoscope, in the Sports Medicine Division. This device is to be used for ACL repair, rotator cuff repair, etc. with minimal invasion. Sometimes I get to be in the cadaver lab and watch surgeons use it and get their feedback. This co-op has given me a wide array of experiences and is definitely my favorite co-op yet!” 

Kenzie started her master’s education at Brown last year, working in the Lee lab for Biomedical Optics and Neuroengineering, “Every senior engineer and manager I’d worked with, in the industry, recommended that I get my master’s. It aids if you’d like to get into managerial positions. Brown has a fantastic reputation, and at the time, it was the only institution that allowed me to pursue a device-based thesis option.” The Brown ScM recently developed two new options: a design-based thesis and a non-thesis option geared toward working students. These options parallel the research-thesis degree offered for more than a decade. Kenzie’s work in the Lee lab focuses on the innovation of a photonic retinal prosthetic device, for retinitis pigmentosa patients, who eventually lose their vision completely, “There are so many limitations about the existing technology that approaches the problem with microelectrode array implants. I am looking into an external device approach to address the current limitations.” She decided to come to Brown after a phone conversation with Dr. Jonghwan Lee that sparked her excitement for the project, “I love working for Dr. Lee! He is the perfect advisor for me- he allows me enough degree of freedom to be an independent investigator, but he is always there for me whenever I need him. I have never hesitated telling him, ‘I don’t know this and I need help.’” 

Besides lab, Kenzie shares how positive her experience at Brown has been so far, “Everyone here is so friendly, and I made friends so quickly. I had communicated with Dr. Schell and Dr. Kofron before coming to Brown, and they’ve been really helpful, too. Brown has been very inclusive and diverse for me.” She seemed to be very happy about her choice of classes as well, “I like the [ENGN 1230] Bioinstrumentation Design class that I took. And [ENGN 1630] Digital Electronic Systems Design- it was a lab-based, really difficult class, but I’ve learned so much from it. I would recommend it to anyone who’s interested in devices and wants to learn.” Kenzie schedules her life such that she never takes any work home, “I keep my weekends free because I have about 40 first-cousins, and I have a family dinner every week.” She also likes to spend time with family doing an array of outdoor activities, “I go camping and hiking with my dog Banshee and my fiancée Kiley. I am happy doing anything outdoors-y: hiking, camping, anything! And I like being surrounded by animals.” Together, Kenzie and Kiley have about 9 pets of different species. 

As she begins her final year of the master’s program in Biomedical Engineering at Brown, Kenzie shared her future plans, “I want to work in the industry doing product development, specifically for hardware and devices. I enjoy anything that’s hands-on, and I want a position that will allow me to test devices, troubleshoot, and innovate them.”