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Powering Global Companies

May 14, 2012


Global_business_-300

The U's College of Science and Engineering graduates are powering global corporations around world.

By Kermit Pattison

If you've shopped for cereal in the supermarket aisles, a College of Science and Engineering (CSE) graduate probably helped fill your bowl. General Mills is one of the top cereal companies in the world. Its 30 brands like Cheerios, Trix, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cocoa Puffs, and Fiber One represent about one third of the market.

All told, about 300 U of M grads work in the General Mill's division that covers research, development, quality, and regulatory operations. The Trix mascot may be a rabbit, but the workforce behind it is filled with Gophers.

Did you know?
Minnesota has more than 20 Fortune 500 companies, with U of M grads at each. But U alumni are hundreds of thousands strong and in every corner of the state. They've started more than 10,000 Minnesota companies that employ 500,000 people and generate $100 billion in annually. And that's just in Minnesota. Learn more at impact.umn.edu and Support the U.

General Mills is just one example of the ties CSE has with global corporations, including Boston Scientific, St. Jude Medical, Exxon Mobil, 3M, and more. These companies provide jobs, internships, and co-op opportunities for CSE students and graduates. They fund academic programs, research, scholarships, and facilities. And they help translate U technologies into marketable products.

In turn, the U gives them a rich pool of employees, access to labs and testing facilities, academic expertise, and more. Here are a few more examples of the way U of M graduates are fueling the companies that power the world.

St. Jude Medical: Transforming Medical Technology
This year St. Jude Medical marked its two millionth implant of a bi-leaflet mechanical heart valve. This milestone in medical devices wouldn't have been possible without the U, where much of the preclinical work for the heart valve was performed.

"Like the pacemaker, there aren't many novel devices that have stood the test of time like the mechanical heart valve, and have saved literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives," said Philip Ebeling, a 1995 chemical engineering graduate and senior vice president of cardiovascular research and development at St. Jude Medical. "The U…has been at the center of that."

Ebeling should know. His team (which is responsible for developing devices in vascular, and structural heart therapies) frequently collaborates with the U.

The 140-person St. Jude Medical Research and Development team hires five to 10 CSE graduates every year. At any given time, it also hosts 10 or 15 students in internship or co-op programs.

Boston Scientific: Defining Tomorrow, Today
Ken Pucel is leading Boston Scientific into a new era of innovation.

Pucel, a 1989 mechanical engineering graduate, serves as executive vice president of Global Operations and Technology for Boston Scientific.

He's overseeing a shift in how the company approaches research and development. Like many companies, Boston Scientific is moving toward a model of open innovation. It no longer views product development as something that happens in-house; rather, it looks for ideas from external sources—such as universities, hospitals, other companies, or inventors.

"The U is one of a single-digit number of universities in the world that have all the disciplines we're interested in within the same university," said Pucel.

Boston Scientific's U connections are both broad and deep, with multiple collaborations involving research, technology, biomedical engineering, medical devices, the veterinary school, hospitals, and the Carlson School of Management.

"There is a certain standard of excellence in the profile of the student we get from the College of Science and Engineering," Pucel said. "It's almost a brand. When I buy Apple, I'm buying a good brand. When I buy the College of Science and Engineering, I'm buying a good brand.

Schlumberger: Fueling the Future
Three decades ago, Jeff Gorski was a young geoengineering student who was introduced to an oil field services company called Schlumberger at an informational meeting at the U.

The career pitch obviously made an impression. Now, as vice president of global accounts, Gorski has spent the last 28 years in a career that has taken him all over the world. Minnesota doesn't offer much in terms of oil, but Gorski and his employer keep coming back in search of another resource—human talent.

Gorski says his company has established a close relationship with CSE because it has proved to be a reliable source of good employees. CSE grads tend to have solid technical skills, a strong work ethic, and come from diverse backgrounds (a plus for a global company that employs 140 nationalities and has offices worldwide).

"As soon as they finish their engineering training, many of these individuals are dealing with multimillion dollar projects," Gorski said. "They're managing projects within a year after college that a lot of people don't see until later in life."

This story is adapted from a story published in CSE's Inventing Tomorrow magazine.

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