MechE major Ricardo De Armas explores the challenge of building medical devices from concept to shelf
Left side: Ricardo with the President of Covidien (right) and General Manager of Covidien Brazil (left); and presenting the lab equipment to executives and locals during the inauguration. Right side: During his visit to Iguazu Falls at the border of Brazil and Argentina; and posing with Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

When Ricardo De Armas first arrived in São Paulo in June 2014, he was expecting a professional work experience in an international setting and an opportunity to perfect his Portuguese speaking skills. However, he got much more than that.


Running against time

Covidien, a Dublin-based global healthcare company, was setting up a Covidien Center of Innovation (CCI), with a research and development lab, in São Paulo. Ricardo’s job was to assist the director as a project manager. His tasks involved procuring equipment, learning how to operate the equipment, and training others.

The greatest challenge was working with a tight deadline — the R&D lab had to be open and ready to serve local healthcare professionals by August 2014. In fact, the end of Ricardo’s internship coincided with the inauguration of the CCI. Equipment from around the world had to be shipped, coordinated, and secured. And all of this was happening as Brazil hosted the World Cup.

To Cliff Emmons, Vice President of Research and Development, Tailored Products, Emerging Markets at Covidien, Ricardo’s internship exceeded expectations.  “Ricardo got the job done under a lot of pressure, but he was always smiling and he won over our team in Brazil. It is a given that an MIT student is going to be bright and be able to solve things technically. What is not a given is that you are going to get a culturally fluent person”.

While interning at Covidien, Ricardo applied his mechanical engineering skills in a research and development setting specifically for medical devices. “Being in the R&D lab, I learned to work with mechanical equipment including precision measurement analysis, compression and tension testing, and 3D printing.”

Covidien was a great fit. “It gave me the confidence to work in an international setting and use a language that I am not particularly comfortable with. I also learned a lot about the medical device industry and what it takes to build a product from concept to shelf. As an aspiring engineer, these are skills I will surely use in my future career.”

Courage to explore the unknown

“I discovered that I am not afraid about living in a place that is culturally different and unknown to me. I also learned that I loved the medical device industry and that I would like to enter this industry after I graduate.”

He says he would highly encourage MISTI to other students. In fact, he would love to return in 2015 after graduation because the trip was also fun.

“My favorite cultural activity during my time in Brazil was going to Samba lounges to watch Brazil world cup games. My friends and I watched the games over delicious Brazilian feijoada (typical dish), and after the games, I joined locals on the dance floor during live samba performances.”


Check out MIT ILP's article and videos for more information on Ricardo's internship with Covidien

  • Brazil
  • Internship
  • MechE