Rah, rah, rah, for Ski-U-Mah

A couple of months ago, I was sitting at my desk pouring through the usual flood of emails and came across an electronic newsletter from Lifescience Alley. In it, I saw a call out to members of the medical device industry from a professor at the University of Minnesota. He is a professor in the Biomedical Engineering department and was looking for guest lecturers to provide support to his senior design class.

At my current job, I am responsible for what is commonly known as “Design Controls” – which fits very well into the process that students in the class will be following as they mock-develop a product. I extended my offer to the professor to discuss this topic with his students and, after a few brief email exchanges, was set to provide a lecture to the 70+ biomed students on Sept 29th.

I haven’t set foot on the University campus in a LONG time. Yeah, I did take a recent ride this summer that ended up at the campus, but that was during a Saturday summer day where the campus was totally vacant. On Tuesday, the campus was in full-throttle mode with mid-week students, bringing back a flood of memories from my tenure in the early 1990’s.

Holy cow! I definitely had a lot more hair back then.

Holy cow! I definitely had a lot more hair back then.

For all the differences, it is amazing how little the college experience has changed. I got to the UofMn a little early and took some time to explore the campus. Before I ventured too far, I passed by my target lecture hall which happened to be in the Physics Building. As an engineering major, I spent a LOT of time in this building, so the designation of Room 131 for my talk sounded quite familiar. No surprise that I realized this was the exact same room that I spent my entire freshman and sophomore years taking elementary physics. I was in the IT Honors Program for those years and was able to take a steady set of classes with a small, tight group of students. Thus, this particular room was the most consistent part of my whole college experience – as I had more steady classes in this room than any other location on campus. This room and the students sitting on the floor outside of it looked exactly the same as it did in 1990.

With a dizzying swirl, I was suddenly 18 years old, scared, excited, and starting a new adventure in the “big” Twin Cities.

Back to the reality of today and about an hour to spare, I headed down the mall and into Coffman Union. Shortly after I ended my college days, they completely gutted the inside of the building and re-built it. In all honesty, I didn’t spend much time there when I was a student, so I’m not sure I could tell the difference. But, it was packed with students hanging out (mostly sleeping in the comfy chairs), so it must be an accepted improvement. I made my way back to the Physic building, with a brief stop in Walter Library to notice that building hasn’t changed in 80 years – let alone the nearly 20 that I have been away from school.

The class went smoothly, without any Event Of Note™ (EON™). It was a little odd being at the opposite end of the teaching spectrum – looking up at the sea of young students – but it was an easy hour. I have re-hashed the Design Controls topic hundreds of times over, so there was little nervousness inside me due to my extreme familiarity of the subject. Looking into the audience, there was the typical mix of students who were eager to listen, those taking a post-lunch nap, and a few tuned-out in the back of the class. Alas – just like college in 1990.

I hope I get the chance to go back and do a similar lecture. It feels good to offer something back to the University, which I think is an incredible asset to the entire Minnesota community.