Mechanical engineering (ME) student Jillian Dunn spent three months over the summer combining three of her passions: engineering, sports and helping others.
Dunn recently completed an internship with Amputee Blade Runners, a Nashville-based nonprofit that provides prosthetic devices for amputee runners or for amputees who simply want to be more active. The company provides its equipment to clients free of charge because running prosthetics are not always covered by health insurance, according to the company’s website.
As an intern, Dunn worked alongside the prosthetists and fabrication technicians. For her it was an opportunity to apply the knowledge she gained from the ME curriculum to a real-world situation.
“I was able to apply knowledge from mechanics and dynamics when fabricating the socket and setting the alignment of the leg,” said Dunn. “Biomechanics also needs to be considered when deciding on the thickness and strength of the socket.”
Dunn grew up in Mason City, Iowa and always enjoyed “doing hands-on projects and solving tough problems.” Iowa State University was the only school she considered when it came time for college and she picked ME as her major because of both its versatility and the fact that it paired well with her biomedical engineering minor.
As a student at Iowa State, she is a member of the ISU Biomedical Engineering Society and has helped to work on some of the club’s projects such as a 3D-printed prosthetic arm and leg. She also gives campus tours to prospective students as part of her role with The Engineering Ambassador and Mentor (TEAM) program. She said that the beauty of Iowa State’s campus is part of what attracted her.
Though not engineering related, she is also involved with Iowa State’ chapter of Best Buddies – of which she formerly served as president – as well as Dance Marathon, both of which allow her to pursue her passion of helping others. Additionally, Dunn coaches basketball, flag football, track and volleyball for the Special Olympics.
In 2020, Dunn completed a co-op with CIVCO Medical Solutions in Kalona, Iowa. She worked as a quality engineer handling Class II medical devices such as ultrasound probe covers, needle guides and brackets. This past summer, she participated in a week-long volunteer trip for the Range of Motion Project. For this, she traveled to Quito, Ecuador where she worked alongside prosthetists, fellow students and translators to provide lower limb prosthetic care for 15 Ecuadorians. The team was responsible for casting the patients and fabricating the sockets using donated components.
Dunn plans to complete her B.S. in mechanical engineering with a minor in biomedical engineering at the end of the Fall 2021 semester. She is currently exploring graduate school opportunities and hopes to pursue a master’s program in prosthetics and orthotics.
“This will allow me to become a certified prosthetist and orthotist, a career in which I can combine my knowledge of engineering and passion for helping others. I will get to work directly with patients to find them the best fit to improve their mobility and quality of life,” she said.