Call Me Doctor® fellow Karla Romero always had a knack for working with her hands. Romero remembers as a child building an elaborate pulley system that allowed her to turn on and off her lights from her bed without having to get up and walk across the room. She would constantly tinker with computers, accidentally breaking them and then having to build them back. I was always asking myself, “what if we pulled that apart, added this, used that?” By the time Romero reached high school at an engineered focused boarding school in her home country of Puerto Rico, she had realized that electrical engineering was her calling.
As a college intern at General Motors in Flint, Michigan, she worked on the production line at one of their manufacturing plants. She got to program robots that were on the line. She implemented safety features outfitting the robots with sensors that would halt the production line when a factory worker needed to cross a path.
Romero’s first job right after graduating from the University of Puerto Rico came with a heavy dose of responsibility. She was hired as a systems engineer in Instrumentations and Controls at Southern Nuclear-Plant Farley in Alabama where her role meant monitoring protection systems that controlled the nuclear reactor. She was trained on how to watch set points, boundaries, pressures, and temperatures and had the power to shut down operations to keep the plant safe.
Wanting to learn more about controls, digital programming, intelligence systems, non-linear and linear control systems and haptic simulators, Karla applied for the Call Me Doctor® fellowship in electrical engineering and started her work towards a Masters Degree at Clemson University’s Institute for Biological Interfaces of Engineering (IBIOE) in Fall 2013.
Romero is currently working on two research projects at Clemson University. The first research project is a haptic simulator. This is a force sensing device that determines the distance to break in laproscopic surgeries. Currently, surgeons rely mostly on cameras to see their tools in surgeries whereas a haptic simulator is used to try and train surgeons on recognizing forces so they can be more efficient in the operating room.
The second research project is a suturing platform that measures forces when surgeons are working on tissues. The device measures forces, the accuracy of the needle, and follows the pattern of the tissue to see how well the surgeon is doing.
Romero loves working in groups, bouncing ideas of others and modifying approaches to problems. Her ideal career path will take her to a place where she feels like she is making a difference. “I don’t want a desk job; I really want to get out there and touch things and do hands-on work where I can see that I am impacting someone’s life with my work.”