Works and Days

Technical Documentation Sigenics, Inc.

Man in front of computers in home office

Aaron at work at Sigenics

Greetings from Sierra Madre, California, where I am currently interning at Sigenics Inc., a company excelling in the creation of custom silicon devices. When I first read the name ‘Sigenics Inc.’, I pretty much expected to find myself working amongst bustling lab-coated technicians scurrying around a clinically clean facility maintained by Wall-E-esqe robots... As it turns out, the Sierra Madre branch of Sigenics Inc. is more low-key—including me, it's a 3 man operation here, stationed in the guest house of my boss, the venerable Douglas Kerns. As far as bosses go, he’s awesome, the atmosphere is always relaxed, perhaps a side effect of working in this beautiful Los Angeles suburb. Doug tells me the Sierra Madre branch formed because he didn’t want to move out to Chicago—where the main facility of Sigenics is located—because the weather in SoCal was too nice to leave. Amen. Even after spending nearly every summer of my life here, I still don’t tire of it. Not long ago a Reed friend asked me, “Aaron, how come you never stay in Portland for summer? It gets so nice.”

“Well,” I replied, “it’s like that in L.A., too, we just call it ‘normal.’”

My function at Sigenics is technical documentation; which can basically be summarized as the compilation and management of electronic documents pertaining to the design of a device. The project I have been assigned to is the creation of a wireless telemetry device for epilepsy monitoring. This device will allow doctors to accurately monitor a patient's epileptic seizures wirelessly, so a patient can go home after an implant procedure and immediately resume their life as the device gathers data that will later be used to surgically 'repair' the brain.  The current procedure requires that a patient stay hospitalized for up to seven days with wires protruding out of the back of their skull that connect to a data gathering computer. As you might imagine, the telemetry device will be great news for patients with chronic epilepsy: not only will it bring the cost of the procedure down tremendously, it will also engender a more comfortable and safe procedure. Unfortunately, I cannot show you a picture of this device being made, as manufacturing is being done at our main facility in Chicago, nor can I show you a picture of the design, because it is still in development, but I can assure you it is very cool, and very complicated.

Douglas Kerns at work

Sigenics Inc. represents one of the unsung triumphs of capitalism—a company whose mission is the creation of devices that will bring tremendous benefit to an otherwise marginalized group, who might otherwise be forced to wait for the cumbersome sledge that is public funding to develop such a product. As summer marches onward, so does progress towards bringing this project to fruition, and I am happy to be there to document it.

Tags: internship advantage

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