The Catholic University of America

Thomas Seacrist, BBE 2006, MBE 2007

Q: Current company name and title?

Project Manager - Biomechanics, Center for Injury Research & Prevention, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Q: What is your job like and what do you like about it?

My job involves overseeing pediatric automotive safety projects including understanding the biomechanics exhibited by children in motor vehicle crashes, conducting pediatric crash test dummy evaluations, and identifying skill deficits in the driving behaviors of novice teen drivers.  Other tasks include grant writing, publishing journal articles, presenting at conferences, and interacting with industry to help improve automotive safety for children.  I enjoy my career because it allows me to combine my two research interests: biomechanics and pediatrics.  I also enjoy the international travel and diversity of the work. 

Q: How did attending CUA prepare for your current career?

The aspect of the CUA engineering curriculum that most prepared for my career was the hands-on laboratory projects and presentation experience.  The biomedical engineering courses in particular always culminated in final research project and presentation, which gave me vital project management and public speaking experience.  Additionally, the extensive MATLAB training gave me a significant advantage over engineers from other institutions.  

Q: Any other important information you would like to add?

As with any career, research has its advantages and disadvantages and it’s important to know what those are before getting into the field.  The primary disadvantage of a research career is the uncertainty associated with “soft money.”  Your salary is supported by grants with a specific end date and maintaining your job requires continually finding new sources of funding.  Research also involves unfunded effort such as grant writing, authoring journal articles, giving lectures, and serving as reviewers on scientific journals.  Additionally, a research career requires innovative thinking and the need to stay on top of current research; it is not a career that one can coast through with the knowledge from their academic training.  The flip side to that is that a career in research is not redundant, particularly in industry-sponsored research, where the landscape is continually changing to meet the needs of consumers.  Other advantages include having a flexible schedule and a more relaxed work environment compared to industry.  Publishing articles and being known among the scientific community is also rewarding.  Finally, frequent travel to national and international conferences is a great way to grow your professional network and experience different cultures.