Gratitude in Times of Challenge and Hardship

Morgan Hill is a 2008 graduate of Air Academy High School in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she took several PLTW Engineering courses. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Colorado at Boulder before going on to a successful career that includes a year as the biomedical expert for Doctors Without Borders in the Middle East. She is currently a senior engineer at Syncroness in Westminster, Colorado.

2020 has been a difficult year in so many ways, for so many people. In the midst of these challenges and hardships, I’ve been reflecting on what I have to be grateful for. One thing I’m consistently thankful for is the career in mechanical engineering that I’ve developed over the past decade. PLTW provided the integral steppingstones, guidance, necessary building block skills, and inspiration for me to start on the professional pathway that I’ve been forging since high school.

No one in my family has a career in a STEM field, and while I knew that I was both interested in and good at math and science, I had no idea how to apply my skills and interests. My family was supportive and encouraging in my academic pursuits, but they lacked the specific STEM-related knowledge and context to be able to help me navigate my path forward. Luckily, my high school offered PLTW Engineering, which enabled me to start exploring the world of engineering early on in my education.

I was able to enroll in all four courses of the program that were offered by my high school, and while I struggled with some of the curriculum (Electrical Engineering is still something my brain seems not to be wired for), I was full of enthusiasm of the knowledge I was gaining, the possibilities I was beginning to see for my further education and career, and the personal growth I was experiencing as I learned, built things, and experimented with design projects. I was also able to participate in an internship at my local hospital during my senior year of high school where I observed dozens of surgical cases and was able to watch surgeons, doctors, nurses, and medical device representatives in action. Through PLTW and this internship, I realized that I could combine my skills in math and science and my interest in medicine and helping people in need into a career as an engineer designing medical devices.

Because PLTW started me off on the pathway to build a great STEM career, I’ve had a fulfilling and challenging journey bringing me where I am now. I attended the University of Colorado for both my Bachelor of Science and my Master of Science degrees in mechanical engineering where I focused on medical devices and product design.

I worked at Covidien (acquired by Medtronic) developing microwave ablation tools that treat lung and liver cancers. I spent a year in San Francisco working for a design house that focused on medical device design and development as client based work, where I helped develop a Miniaturized Joint Scope that can be used to diagnose injuries and potentially treat them in a much less invasive manner than the current state of the art. I spent a year working for Doctors Without Borders in Lebanon, managing medical equipment and training technicians and medical staff on how to properly use, maintain, and repair the equipment in their clinics (which were in extremely challenging environments that couldn’t easily access outside help, like refugee camps and areas in conflict).

Currently, I’m working at Syncroness as a senior engineer where I’m able to work on a diverse set of product design and development challenges brought to us from various clients. In my role at Syncroness, I contribute technically, manage technical teams, and am in a constant state of learning due to the varying goals provided by clients.

I’m so thankful that PLTW got me started on the path that I’ve followed. I’ve been able to combine my strengths and interests to build a career where I’ve made a net positive influence by developing surgical tools that improve patient outcomes and have contributed humanitarian aid in underserved populations. Throughout the challenges we’re all facing in 2020, I’m grateful for my fulfilling career.

Engineering can be boiled down to problem solving, and especially in these trying times, there are always problems to be solved.

PLTW’s blog intends to serve as a forum for ideas and perspectives from across our network. The opinions expressed are those of each guest author.