Warwick resident graduates from URI to career designing medical devices

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KINGSTON, R.I. — May 17, 2006 — She built medical devices for disabled patients, traveled Europe, played soccer, and earned numerous academic accolades. Now Warwick resident Beth Therrien is graduating from the University of Rhode Island on May 21 as one of URI’s top biomedical engineering students.

“I was always good in math and science, and when I considered majoring in engineering, it was the medical aspects of engineering that interested me the most,” Therrien said. “The thought of designing medical devices really fascinates me.”

Even before she graduates, the 21-year-old student received considerable experience doing just that. She participated in an internship with Slater Hospital in Cranston in which she built electronic devices to help disabled patients control lighting, televisions and other equipment in their hospital rooms. And in her senior design project, she built a portable heart monitoring system that graphically displays a patient’s electrocardiogram and photoplethysmogram waveforms.

“These battery-powered, handheld devices are built by our students from scratch,” said URI Biomedical Engineering Professor Ying Sun. “To design and build them they must apply many skills that they have learned from our curriculum such as analog and digital circuits, microprocessor based design, signal processing, and C++ programming.

“Bethany has always been at the top of her class in biomedical engineering,” Sun added. “She works hard and always has a smile on her face.”

Therrien earned Dean’s List accolades all four years at URI and is a member of the national engineering honor societies Tau Beta Pi and Etta Kappa Nu. She also was an active member of the Society of Women Engineers.

But she’s not just a stellar student. She plays soccer in the competitive Rhode Island Women’s Soccer League and runs in road races – sports she starred in at Tollgate High School. She’s also a proficient Spanish speaker who spent a summer studying in Salamanca, Spain. “It was an absolutely incredible experience,” said Therrien, who paid her own way through school by working as a waitress and bartender. “I had never been to Europe before, and we traveled around a lot. It was just incredible!”

After graduation, Therrien will begin full-time work as a research and development engineer at Afferent Corp. in Providence, where she will design and build medical devices for stroke patients and others with neurological disorders. It’s a job she began part-time in early 2006.

“In the future I intend to gain some more experience in the field and grow with this incredible start-up company, Afferent, and eventually pursue grad school,” Therrien said. “I just hope that I will play an important role in the medical device industry, and help to improve even a few individuals’ lives.”

URI News Bureau Photo by Michael Salerno Photography.