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Jenna Shaw: Devices with a mission

Written by Kermit Pattison

Jenna Shaw earned many honors as a student: commencement speaker and president of the biomedical engineering society, just to name a couple. But the young Medtronic engineer traces her professional drive to a childhood event—a car accident that left her baby sister with a traumatic brain injury.

Shaw grew up visiting hospitals while her parents sought care for their youngest daughter. She witnessed first-hand how medicine and technology helped her sister and other patients overcome serious injuries and illnesses. (Her sister eventually recovered and now is enrolled in graduate school.) Those years stamped Shaw with a desire to pursue a career in medicine and technology—and that attracted her to the University’s biomedical engineering program.

“The professors in my department were always throwing curveballs at us. They were teaching us how to think and how to solve a problem. That happens every day in the workplace. You need to come up with a creative solution,” Shaw said.

During college, she threw herself into extracurricular activities. She served as president of the Biomedical Engineering Society. She volunteered as a mentor in Girls Excel in Math, a group that promotes math and science among junior high school girls. She also served on the senior design team, where she helped plan a new algorithm for pacemakers based on physiological signals, an experience that foreshadowed her later work with Medtronic.

By networking through CSE connections, she secured two valuable internships. First she interned at 3M, where she gained first-hand experiences in scientific testing in an industrial setting. Next she got a second internship at St. Jude's medical device company where she worked in manufacturing. Both experiences proved invaluable in helping her land a full-time position after graduation.

Midway through her senior year, Shaw had two job offers. She went to work at Medtronic and has advanced through several engineering positions over the last six years. She now works as a senior mechanical design engineer in the Medtronic implantable neurostimulator group within the Neuromodulation business The group makes small devices implanted in the body that deliver electrical signals to treat conditions such as chronic pain, essential tremor, and Parkinson's Disease.

“At the end of the day, we always say it’s for the patients,” said Shaw, 28. “For me, it’s more personal. What if someone in my family needed this?”