2018 PFIG Recipient Patrick Murphy
Journal Entry #1
Legionarius is a startup medical device company, based in Boston, that is developing an autonomous treatment care and health sensory garment for armed forces and other users in high performance environments. With vital signs and health severity data transmission, a triage infrastructure is established. Dr. Gruentzig, founder and technical director, was selected as an idea finalist through MassChallenge this past year. MassChallenge is a startup accelerator that provides entrepreneurs with workspaces and equipment resources in order to further the technological development of products and ideas.
Each day I take the train into South Boston from where I am staying in Cambridge. Legionarius is located in the Boston Innovation and Design Center, right on the coast in the Seaport Innovation District. It’s an incredible view and an engaging experience to work in an affluent and face-paced city. There are many local places to eat and a fun crowd of young, inspiring professionals to enjoy time with. Boston is rich with festivals, food, culture and history, all of which I plan to experience! It is nice to stay in historic Cambridge right in the center of Harvard’s campus with a scenic route to run by the Charles River. I live on Brattle Street, which was historically a street for wealthy loyalists to the Crown during the American Revolution. Washington’s Longfellow House is practically right across the street from me. I understand more why the national bird was originally supposed to be the turkey, because I see turkeys roaming freely all the time!
I work on a team of five other interns, and we work under two employees; all of which come from varying engineering backgrounds. The first week consisted of acclimating myself with the current stage of product development, the different workstream directions as possibilities of pursuit, and the various systems involved in operation of the device: physiological treatment, combative environment, data streams. I am working on sensor development with a biomedical engineering intern from Boston University, and we are designing an experiment to optimize orientation of the sensors as they are subject to movement in the performance garment.
The benefits of working in an environment of startups are boundless. As MassChallenge is always hosting competitions for ideas, I have had the opportunity to listen to companies pitch their ideas and gain an insight for how to successfully pitch and implement a product. Further, many of the companies are proposing biotechnologies, so I am getting a better idea for the current challenges addressed in healthcare. Many bigger engineering and consulting companies work in partnership with MassChallenge to mentor the startups. One of Legionarius’ mentors is a large company that I am interested in working for in the future, so this environment is highly conducive for networking and making substantive connections.
Draper Laboratory, an engineering research and development company, is working with us to develop how sensory data will be used, and also helping us to determine which information will be useful in the battlefield environment. They have an veteran special operations team medic on their team working with us, and it is valuable to be involved in the process of designing based on user needs and current market standards. I hope to pursue a career in engineering design, so I am thoroughly enjoying the immersively engaging experiences encapsulated by the design process here at Legionarius.
Journal Entry #2
The weather heated up a lot in Boston and it is nice to enjoy the many beaches that are nearby. I recently took a ferry to Provincetown, which was an awesome beachtown to visit. There are always art exhibits going on and plenty of neat little shops to visit, all within walking or biking distance. My favorite thing is how clear the water is up here in the New England, it’s incredible to dive and be able to see underwater without even goggles. I live about twenty minutes away from Walden Pond where the transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau immersed himself in nature to come up with ideas for his book. The lake rests deep and wide, formed from glacial migration. I enjoy a refreshing open water swim there after work sometimes. I picked up a second job to work a few nights a week which keeps me very busy.
Development is coming along swiftly at Legionarius. We started working with the nanomanufacturing department at UMass Lowell to determine the optimal material for the sensors, and it was a highly constructive experience to present design ideas professionally to faculty and researches and see the process that goes into collaborative outsourced product development.
As an adjunct project of sensor development, I am also working on designing and integrating the heart rate monitor. I made a prototype and coded a circuit board that successfully calculates and relays the heart rate information via bluetooth to our system’s medic app. I am getting a lot more electrical engineering experience than I expected, but this is a rewarding surprise as an understanding of basic circuitry is an important skill to possess. I am also investigating the feasibility of different non-invasive technologies that would enable measurement other biometrics, specifically ventilation rate. There is a technical progress presentation to company investors in mid-July, so our team is busy right now getting prototypes ready for demonstration and combining the different streams of development.
The Fourth of July is coming up this week on Wednesday, and we have the rest of the week off. I plan to walk one block over from where I live, and kayak on the Charles to watch the fireworks set right at the MIT bridge. We are experiencing a heat wave so it should be an excellent week to explore a new beach!
Journal Entry #3
My internship and time in Boston is coming to an end, and I have had a wonderful experience. Most of the other interns will be entering their senior year of college, so they plan to continue working for Legionarius to complete their capstone project. I am in contact with a professor in a design lab at UVA, and hope to continue working remotely for the team. When Legionarius takes off, I would like to still be part of the team.
This summer gave me a better understanding of what it means to work on a design team at an early stage of development. At certain moments, things get stressful with deadlines and seemingly endless iterative processes, but it is all worth when a component functions properly. I even had the opportunity to go to a shooting range and test our prototypes. It was revitalizing to see different components of a product come to fruition.
Another important insight I gained relates to the timelines of product design. At my internship I mainly dealt with rapid prototyping and proof of concept, all early steps for exploring the different ways to implement an idea. Other important aspects to keep in mind, which I learned to pay attention to, are the various production methods for application later on. How can this design be implemented efficiently in mass production, what materials and processes can be used that are more sustainable? Working on these problems and making products with the public well-being in mind is a service to protect the current environment, and also innovate for later generations.
My interest for a career in product design was reassured this summer and I had an incredible experience working interdisciplinarily with engineers from varying backgrounds. I hope to use these experiences to prepare for recruiting season this fall and explore other opportunities at bigger and more established medical device companies.
It was an amazing opportunity to be able to travel up to the north east and live in an affluent city. I am extremely grateful to the Parent’s Fund and its administration, and I would not have been able to pursue this internship without it.