A clear view of medical tech at GE Healthcare

artist's black-and-white sketch of two GE Healthcare Sprinterns with one of their mentors

Come for the tech work experience, stay for the opportunity to file a patent application. To their complete surprise, that was what our Sprinternship was like for the five UIC students who matched with GE Healthcare in 2022!

Written By
Andrea Poet
  • Sprinternship Program

Sometimes, the journey is just as valuable as the destination. A team of Break Through Tech Chicago Sprinterns™ joined GE Healthcare this summer expecting to hone their tech skills. While there, they flexed their project-management muscles, learning how to ask for support while also tackling challenges on their own.

This was GE Healthcare’s first foray into the Sprinternship™ program. Its five Sprinterns, who represented various UIC majors, worked with team members across the company, which designs and manufactures medical imaging equipment and other supplies used in healthcare.

“The Sprinternship is a phenomenal idea,” said Christopher Campbell, the co-leader of GE Healthcare’s design engineering internship program. “It aligns with GE’s push for diversity in the workplace and helps us connect with different demographics.”

The Sprinterns’ main project provides an immediate benefit to GE Healthcare’s sales team. They used the programming language Python to create a web-based tool that, based on a machine’s identification number, allows salespeople to quickly identify if an update for the machine is available or which parts are needed.

“I really liked our project. We were given a main goal, but it was pretty free-spirited for us,” said Christina Wong, who recently changed her major from chemistry to computer science. “The mentors didn’t check in on us all the time. We could contact them whenever we wanted, but sometimes we waited, which allowed us to struggle and often figure it out on our own.”

Fraser Robb, an engineering manager, gave the Sprinterns books and quizzes to help them identify their individual strengths. During one of their meetings, the group came up with an idea related to Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine coils — and by the end of the three-week project, the Sprinterns had filed for a patent for the idea.

“I was impressed with how engaged and driven they were and with their passion for healthcare,” Robb said. “Filing a patent in three weeks was probably a record.”

While the Sprinterns completed most of their assignment remotely from Illinois, the team headed to the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area to visit various GE Healthcare sites, including its facilities at West Electric Avenue and at Research Park. They also visited a GE customer in Illinois, Duly Health and Care (formerly DuPage Medical Group), to see GE Healthcare MRI machines in a clinical setting.

Four of the five Sprinterns — Wong, Kalkidan Sisay, Susrutha Iska, and Ashley Roman — have moved into a full 12-week internship with GE Healthcare for the rest of this summer. (The fifth, Erica Ly, had already committed to another internship.) Sisay and Wong are working on image reconstruction, and Roman and Iska shifted to the MRI coil development team.

In addition to providing technical knowledge and experience, Sprinternships open doors.

“Once I was accepted to the program, some people told me I couldn’t do it, or that I got an internship only because I’m a woman,” Ly said. “We worked hard to get where we are. We earned it. And this program gave us a foot in the door we wouldn’t otherwise have.”

GE Healthcare hopes to continue the partnership with Break Through Tech Chicago.

“At GE Healthcare, we are committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive culture, where everyone feels empowered to do their best work,” said Pei Ho, chair of the company’s Imaging Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council. “This is a great example of how we can work with UIC to expand the breadth and depth of our workforce while increasing our innovation.”