MS-MPE Student Feature: Benjamin Ratchford

By: Nicole Bohatch, CMI Fellow

Ben Ratchford head shot

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ben Ratchford who is currently enrolled in the MS-MPE to learn about his experience.

At the beginning of Ben’s academic career in 2015, he dreamed of attending medical school. While he was interested in Biomedical Engineering, he decided to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Biology because he felt it would better prepare him for his future. Upon graduating from Penn State University in 2019, Ben began medical school at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. It was not until two years into the program that he realized medical school was not for him. This was when Ben re-visited the idea of Biomedical Engineering as a career path and began researching master’s programs to gain a true engineering education. During his search, he found the MS-MPE program at the University of Pittsburgh and felt it was the perfect fit for his new career path. He began the program last Fall 2022.

When asked about his experience in the MS-MPE program, Ben said he has loved every second of it. One aspect that he has enjoyed the most is how helpful each of the faculty in the program are. He said, “All of the faculty are really engaged and want to see the students succeed. The small cohorts allow students to get a lot of one-on-one advice and feedback.” He went on to discuss how since most of the faculty have industry experience, their advice is extremely helpful to the students who want to work in the medical device industry.

Another aspect of the MS-MPE program that Ben enjoys is how well-rounded his experience has been thus far. He explained that the program is composed of students with diverse backgrounds. Ben feels this has impacted his learning experience because he can gain new perspectives on how to solve a common problem. This type of collaboration within the program is one that directly relates to the medical device industry.

An additional part of the program that he appreciates is, “You can pick your own path within the program and make the experience individualized to what your goals are.” While there are required courses, students can tailor additional courses to their interests. He encourages current and prospective students to take advantage of what the Pitt ecosystem has to offer.

As Ben was initially learning more information about the MS-MPE program, he was exposed to human factors engineering. Since he did not have a great understanding of what human factors engineering was, he began to do his research on it and developed an interest in the field. While at an internship and co-op expo last fall, he had the opportunity to speak with a representative from Bayer Healthcare, which led him to his current internship role.

In March 2023, Ben began as a contract Human Factors Engineer at Bayer. He is currently working with Bayer full-time. His role entails studying/testing user interfaces and interactions on medical devices to make sure they are ergonomic and easy to use. He described it as, “It feels like you are making an actual difference in the way things are made which not only benefits the company you work for, but also the doctors, nurses, technicians, [etc.] who are using the device to make their lives easier.”

Ben is currently fulfilling his internship requirement this summer and looks forward to completing the program at the end of 2023. In the future, he would like to pursue a career in human factors engineering within the orthopedic industry.