Explore STEM Careers

We invite you to discover the many ways that engineers, scientists, and other STEM professionals are making the world a better place by designing cutting-edge solutions and answering important questions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the videos below, you will meet real people working in all kinds of STEM-related fields, follow their pathways from student to career, learn about their inspirations, and discover why they are passionate about the work they do. These videos will also introduce you to the many ways that STEM professionals and the organizations they work for have pivoted to address new, urgent challenges introduced by the pandemic. Some of these problems are obvious—such as ensuring access to protective equipment, medical technology, testing, and vaccines. Engineers and scientists are working on many “behind the scenes”  challenges as well to ensure that systems and infrastructure continue to operate effectively as the way we use them and the demands we put on them shifted virtually overnight.

Many of the individuals profiled below are available for virtual visits to STEM-related classes, out-of-school programs, and career exploration events. Click the button on the right if you are interested in scheduling a virtual visit for your students.

Dr. Mike Osterholm shares how he found his STEM career – and he encourages you to consider a STEM career too!

Kim Chaffin, PhD, PE

Chemical Engineer

As a Senior Distinguished Scientist at Medtronic, Kim’s work involves identifying technical problems and then designing research projects to solve them, with a focus on changing the way we take care of patients. The collaborative nature of doing science has been challenged during the pandemic, but Kim and her colleagues have adjusted to ensure that the research required to develop life-saving devices is always moving forward.

Mika Pieper-White

Civil Engineer

Mika’s job with Bolton & Menk involves working to maintain roads and infrastructure to ensure supplies can always be transported as planned. This includes ensuring that our transportation system does not delay medical supplies from being delivered on-time. While rush-hour traffic has been reduced during the pandemic with more employees working from home, the shift in consumer behavior to online shopping means that businesses are reliant in different ways on a robust transportation infrastructure.

Manjiri Kshirsagar

Microbiologist

By conducting both basic and applied research at 3M, Manjiri’s work includes making unexpected discoveries and finding innovative answers to practical questions. In response to COVID, Manjiri and colleagues are working to develop products and related education about cleaning, sanitation, and disinfecting, as well as verifying the effectiveness of these techniques.

Dr. Michael Joyner, MD

Physiologist & Anesthesiologist

Dr. Joyner and his research team at the Rochester Mayo Clinic are focused on improving the outcomes of hospitalized COVID-19 patients by treating them with convalescent plasma. They’ve found that critically ill patients who received convalescent plasma containing high levels of COVID-19 antibodies early in their disease have an increased chance of survival. Additional studies are exploring how convalescent plasma may be able reduce the severity of and even prevent COVID-19.

Chemuttaai Lang’at

Biomedical Engineer & Social Entrepreneur

Chemu is passionate about driving sustainable social impact through innovation. As Regional Head for Africa for Medtronic Labs, she is responsible for driving health innovation growth and patient impact across Africa. Chemu was also part of the team that supported the delivery of the University of Minnesota Coventor–a low-cost, simplified, and portable bridging ventilator for use with patients needing breathing support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ben Wallace

Building Solutions Consultant

As co-founder of Minify Energy, Ben applies a combination of technological solutions to provide healthy indoor air in buildings. Given that COVID is an airborne disease, this helps ensure that businesses can operate safely, protecting their customers and employees. Through a combination of heating, venting, air conditioning equipment, plus smart IoT-based building sensing and controls, Minify Energy helps to improve the use of fresh outside air, flushing the air in occupied spaces to meet or exceed health guidelines.

Katie Hendricksen

Software Engineer

When COVID hit, a lot changed—including how people shop. This required suppliers of consumer goods like Target to pivot, scaling a new way of doing business virtually overnight. Due to the COVID pandemic, Target’s algorithms for stocking essential items were disrupted due to the sudden changes in what goods people needed, in what volumes, and how they were being purchased. Therefore, quickly creating new algorithms to keep essentials sufficiently stocked was necessary to ensure customer’s needs are met.

Tamasree Majumder

Graduate Student, Regulatory Affairs  & Legal Intern

Tamasree’s primary job involves helping medical device companies commercialize safe and effective devices in US and other countries by aligning with the US FDA and other regulatory authorities in order to be lawfully compliant. Currently, she is assisting in the commercialization of PPE—such as surgical gloves, masks, and respirators—for the US market and in other countries. Her work includes developing procedures and processes for compliance with regulatory requirements and for preparing documentation to bring devices to market that will protect the community from COVID-19.

Jordan Gedrose

Landscape Architect

Jordan helped organize and facilitate barrier-free nasal and saliva COVID testing sites to communities throughout Minnesota. In this role at WSB he worked alongside the MN Department of Health, National Guard, and other partners to help slow the spread of the virus.

Tara Phouthavongsa, RN, BSN

Registered Nurse

As a Clinical Specialist at Boston Scientific, Tara’s job involves helping physicians implant cardiac devices in patients to help prevent strokes. In April 2020, Tara returned to the field as an ICU nurse to join frontline workers battling health challenges associated with COVID-19 at a medical center in Brooklyn, New York.

Cade Botten

Graduate Engineer

In his work for Hennepin County, Cade is responsible for monitoring changes in traffic volumes and then adjusting traffic signal timing as needed throughout the county in order to ensure efficient traffic patterns. COVID-19 has drastically impacted traffic patterns and volumes throughout the country. When lockdowns and additional restrictions are in place, these impacts are magnified. Because of this, Cade has spent much of the past year monitoring traffic using ‘Big Data’ applications and using that information to improve flow and maximize safety throughout Hennepin County.

Ashlee Slocum, PharmD

Pharmaceutical Scientist

Ashlee is a District Leader for CVS Health and her job primarily involves leading multiple store teams working to transform healthcare through innovations to make quality care more accessible, easier to use, less expensive and more patient-focused. Ashlee and the teams she works with have created a fully digital end-to-end experience for COVID-19 testing and flu vaccinations, and are putting these same tools to work to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations, including—importantly—the required second dose. CVS Health is uniquely positioned to play a prominent role in administering COVID-19 vaccinations across the country.

Jazmine Darden

Educator & Entrepreneur

Jazmine is a 3D printing enthusiast and expert, teaching 3D Printing at Dunwoody College, serving as the Director of the Young Inventor Challenge with People of Play, and always imagining ways to use 3D printing to create new products. Jaz learned that, having to wear face masks continuously because of the pandemic, healthcare professionals were experiencing behind-the-ear discomfort. Right away, she know she could help. Jazmine began printing “Ear Heros” in her basement–up to 300 per day. She then founded I AM Ear Hero to meet demand, which uses injection molding to produce about 10,000 ear savers daily. Jazmine has used proceeds from sales to donate over 30,000 I AM Ear Heros to front line and essential workers.

Sandeep Burman

Hydrogeologist & Civil Engineer

As Drinking Water Administrator for the Minnesota Department of Health, Sandeep and his colleagues ensure that all Minnesotans have access to clean water 24 hours per day and 7 days per week in their homes, schools, workplaces, and community settings. While access to clean water is always essential, this role took on a new level of urgency during the pandemic in order to ensure uninterrupted access to clean water for frequent handwashing and sanitation, especially with people suddenly spending dramatically more time at home.

Peju Nordvik

Cyber Security Analyst

As a Senior Cyber Security Analyst for Target, Peju focuses on third-party risk assessment, which includes responsibilities such as preventing data loss and aligning third-party information security with Target’s security. She has experience in investigating electronic fraud, cyber security engineering, project management and data mining. During the pandemic, Peju has been committed to ensuring her team continues to feel connected.

Tim Olson, PE

Civil Engineer

As an engineer at Bolton & Menk, Tim works to ensure water quality, protect environmental resources, and prevent flooding–even during a pandemic. While COVID-19 makes communication and teamwork more difficult, Tim and his colleagues use a variety of virtual collaboration tools to plan and design systems and processes to ensure community and environmental water needs are always met.

Kory Bonnell, PhD

Natural Resources Expert

As an Environmental Compliance Specialist for WSB, Kory’s job primarily involves regulating stormwater compliance on construction sites, industrial facilities and for municipalities throughout the State of Minnesota. Following a “redeployment” to working with the Minnesota Department of Health, Kory and her colleagues began managing the logistics of COVID-19 testing events. Our task was to ensure that the citizens of Minnesota would have access to barrier-free testing. Our team worked with community leaders and advocates for the underserved to set up testing events throughout the entire state.

Kimberly Rogers

Medical Laboratory Scientist

Kimberly serves as the Laboratory Manager at North Memorial Hospital, overseeing medical laboratory scientists in the hospital’s clinical laboratory as they work to provide results that aid in making diagnoses for patients and their healthcare team. This past year, one of the lab’s goals was to make COVID-19 testing widely and readily available to patients, employees, and the community.

Kao Soua Yang

Engineer in Training

Kao Soua is an Engineer in Training with the Minnesota Department of Transportation through the Graduate Engineer & Land Surveyor Program. As a trainee, her work responsibilities vary depending on which office she is working with at the time. In her current rotation, Kao Soua is working in the Metro Traffic – Signal Operations office where she has had the opportunity to work on running, monitoring, and updating traffic signal operations during the COVID pandemic. Since many people started teleworking, her team has been monitoring and adjusting traffic light cycles and patterns to accommodate the changes in traffic flow.

Katie Reget, MPH

Public Health Professional

Katie is a public health professional in Community Engagement and Development at M Health Fairview’s Smiley’s Clinic. She works directly within her organization to address its response to COVID-19, especially related to health equity and health disparities. Among other responsibilities, this includes developing a culturally competent testing and vaccination model. Katie’s work also involves addressing issues such as food insecurities, housing insecurities, homelessness.

Fernando Caralt

Advanced Research Engineer

Fernando is a research engineer at 3M who explores how new technologies can be used to innovate product development. Early on in the pandemic, Fernando looked into how additive manufacturing—3D printing—could be used to help 3M with their COVID response. He explored ways to use additive manufacturing technology to create devices like respirators in a reliable manner. Even though the project was put on hold in its early stages, all that was learned will help Fernando with possibilities in the future.

Jeff Green

Electrician

Working as an electrician for Hennepin County, Jeff’s responsibilities include installing and maintaining traffic control devices. Even during the pandemic, his work requires him to be in the field many days for maintenance and construction in order to ensure traffic safety and effective operation for everyone on the county’s roadways.

John Bischof, PhD

Professor & Researcher

As Distinguished McKnight University Professor at the University of Minnesota, John works in the area of thermal bioengineering with a focus on biopreservation, thermal therapy, and nanomedicine. During the pandemic, his lab has worked on improving COVID diagnostics. John also runs the Institute for Engineering in Medicine, which has sponsored multiple projects to address unmet needs during the pandemic, leading to a number of open sources, patents, and emerging products. In addition to his University appointments, he is also Director of the NSF Engineering Research Center Advanced Technologies for Preservation of Biological Systems (ATP-Bio), which launched on September 1, 2020.

Jena Zangs

Data Scientist

Jena is the Director of Data, Analytics & Reporting at the University of St. Thomas and her job involves exploring, maintaining and analyzing all of the University data to help solve key business problems. She utilizes data science analysis, data engineering, data storytelling, and computer programming throughout her day. Jena’s team is working to ensure all students at the University can attend in-person courses during COVID-19 distance restrictions and also assisting the University in making strategic business decisions in a remote environment.

Markus Reiterer, PhD

Materials Scientist

Markus is a Distinguished Scientist at Medtronic, focusing on materials science and computer modeling. During the pandemic, he has been involved with two teams that worked on a low-cost ventilator for treating people experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms. As a key member of these teams, Markus provided insights about medical device design and requirements about engineering rigor and quality systems.

Michael Full Res-3

Michael O’Connor, PhD

Civil & Biomedical Engineer

As Director of Strategy and Project Management at Medtronic, Michael leads efforts related to technology and innovation, such as increased production of ventilators to be used to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The pandemic has required many companies to change the way they do business in order to increase the availability of live-saving technologies. To this end, Michael has led teams to develop open-source products and build partnerships with other companies to accelerate timelines and supply.