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Product design graduate helping to develop life-saving medical devices

Having completed his studies in 2021, product design graduate Steven Thomas is now developing pioneering life-saving medical devices.

Steven, who works as a Graduate Industrial Designer at Creo Medical, had his heart set on a career in design from an early age. He said: “I always knew that I was going to be a designer, but my university experience helped me realise that I wanted to focus on the concept stage of development, working iteratively with prototypes and test rigs to refine an idea. The practical focus of the BU course was what really attracted me to study here. I looked other universities before making my choice, and whilst many had impressive workshops and 3D printing facilities, they didn’t offer the same opportunity to make physical models. Practical, hands-on skills are a huge part of being a designer and I have found them to be Incredibly useful in my current role.”

Steven’s route into the medical sector began with his final-year project. He explains: “During my placement year I met a doctor who delivered training to medical students on ultrasound guided procedures. He explained to me that he was delivering this training using a model made from chicken breasts and tofu, because there wasn’t anything else available on the market to do the job effectively. I had already wanted to focus my project on something within the life-saving sector and this gave me the perfect opportunity to tackle a real-world medical problem.”

Steven spent the final year of his degree meeting with users, gathering evidence and feedback and modelling the device that could improve medical training in this area. He said: “This part of the course is such a great training ground. For me it is so important to stay rooted in the problem you are trying to solve, and to keep modelling the potential solution at every stage. The research should continually inform the development of the product – and now when I look at other people’s projects, I am much more interested in the 50 scrappy models that got them to where they are now, than a beautifully crafted model that hasn’t been through so many iterations.”

As he neared the end of the course, Steven was able to draw on this experience to apply for and secure a job with Creo Medical where he works as part of a team developing pioneering approaches to endoscopic surgical equipment. Steven said: “The job feels like a natural progression from the final year of the degree. I love the team dynamic of problem solving and prototyping, which sometimes means coming up with several iterations of a product in one day.”

The company’s technology utilises advanced energy – a combination of bipolar radiofrequency and super high-frequency microwave energy – to optimise endoscopy-based treatments for patients and clinicians.

Steven said: “While as designers we are at the very early stages of the product development, it is still massively rewarding to know that the work you are doing is having a positive impact on people’s lives. I have been out to hospitals where our products are already in use and to be able to see life-saving operations in progress – and match what you are watching on the video monitor with the procedure taking place on a patient on the operating table – is incredible and reminds you what you are doing it all for.”