Finding Her Passion in Biomechanics Through Co-ops

Alumni

Co-ops at Insulet and the U.S. Army DEVCOM Soldier Center helped Elizabeth Klemm, E’23, bioengineering and biomedical engineering, determined her career path. She continued at the Soldier Center after graduating, focusing on helmet mass research and how the distribution of that mass may impact soldier performance.


Elizabeth Klemm, E’23, bioengineering and biomedical engineering, used co-op as an opportunity to explore different roles throughout the industry. Her first co-op was at Insulet as a Design Verification Systems Test Engineer. This role was focused on validation testing of Insulet’s Omnipod, a tubeless insulin pump for insulin dependent diabetics. She greatly enjoyed the opportunity to explore the industry, but it helped her realize that she was more interested in biomechanics.

“It was definitely a great experience [because] it was my first real professional experience,” Klemm says. “It solidified that I wanted something more in the biomechanics field, [with] more human testing as opposed to product testing.”

Klemm found what she was looking for with her next co-op at the U.S. Army DEVCOM Soldier Center. It was a role she was interested in even before her first co-op, and her experiences in the Occupational Biomechanics and Ergonomics Lab as well as biomechanics practices learned in class, helped her be more prepared for it as a second co-op. Considering that she’s still there after graduating, she thinks it’s safe to say it was a good choice.

“I do a lot of human testing, so I’m working with the soldiers, day in and day out,” Klemm says.

She is currently working on a project focused on soldiers’ helmets with a goal of determining if helmet mass and the distribution of that mass impacts soldier performance. Because they carry so much technology and protective gear on their helmets, the weight can cause pain and have a negative impact on their mobility and performance. By collecting data from soldiers and making calculations based on the data, her research could lead to the development of helmets that are more manageable with evenly distributed weight.

Since she works so closely with the same soldiers throughout the data collection process, she makes an extra effort to ensure that they are comfortable in a lab setting, leading to more useful and accurate data. When soldiers are comfortable with the data collectors, they move more naturally and also tend to share more about their experiences.

“[For] three to four hours a day for two weeks, we would be working with the same soldier, communicating with them in a way that makes them comfortable but is still professional,” Klemm says.

As part of her work with the DEVCOM Soldier Center, she was also able to apply for the SMART Scholarship for Service, which grants her a stipend and the opportunity to carry on through graduate school. For her graduate experience, she is working towards a master’s of science in kinesiology from East Carolina University. During the summer, she returns to work at the Soldier Center, and she will continue there full-time after graduating. Having the chance to gain workforce experience while completing her academics has helped her become self-assured of her abilities.

“I feel more confident to pose questions and more equipped to help with protocol development and troubleshooting,” Klemm says.

During her time at Northeastern, Klemm also worked in the university’s Occupational Biomechanics and Ergonomics Laboratory with Bouvé Professor Jack Dennerlein and BioE/MIE Professor Sandra Shefelbine. The lab is dedicated to preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders through biomechanical studies and methods. While in the lab, Klemm helped a master’s student with a data collection project similar to the one she is currently working on at DEVCOM.

“She was looking at the effects of VR headsets and their design on neck joint torques and muscle activation within the neck muscles,” Klemm says. “That was my first real foray into biomechanics research.”

Outside of co-op and the lab, Klemm was involved with the Society of Women Engineers, or SWE. Though she became more involved in other activities as an upperclassman, SWE helped her integrate herself in a welcoming community of fellow female engineers.

“I really felt like I was in a female-centric environment at Northeastern, which I thought was fantastic,” Klemm says.

Klemm is already working towards several important milestones in her career, but that hasn’t slowed her ambition. In the future, she is hoping to pursue a Ph.D. while continuing her work at DEVCOM to further fulfill her research interests in injury prevention and performance optimization. Her current goals reflect the most valuable lesson she learned at Northeastern.

“For me, what was important is to forge your own path,” Klemm says. “There are a lot of communities out there to tailor your degree to your specific interests.”

Related Faculty: Sandra Shefelbine

Related Departments:Bioengineering