Gustavus Summer Researchers Preview Potential Career PathsVisits with Medtronic and Cargill helped STEM students picture what their careers might involve.
Posted on July 20th, 2023 by

A group of STEM-focused student-researchers visited Medtronic and Cargill as part of their summer program.

One of the many benefits of the summer research programs at Gustavus is how they reach beyond the lab and into the future. This may include discussions with Gustie alums, leading and evaluating presentations with fellow researchers—or this week, embarking on a good old-fashioned field trip.

On Tuesday, July 18, a group of STEM summer researchers got to experience the latter when they trekked up to the Twin Cities to meet with representatives from biomedical engineering corporation Medtronic and the global agricultural titan Cargill. Students enjoyed tours (a few Gustavus alums acted as tour guides) and met with staff members who told their own stories about how they landed in their careers.

At Medtronic, about a dozen employees from multiple levels and disciplines offered advice to the Gustavus students, who ranged from First-Year Research Experience (FYRE) participants to recent graduates. A notable takeaway from the lengthy Q&A session was how different each Medtronic employee’s career path has been: some had at least one advanced degree (or are working on it), others are content with a bachelor’s; some always knew they wanted to enter this field, others stumbled into it. “There’s no right answer to what to do after you graduate,” said one. “You should just look for things you might enjoy, and that will probably lead to other things you’ll enjoy.”

Other panelists offered advice that’s applicable to any student, whether or not they’re in STEM fields:

  • Are you planning to go to grad school because you want to, or because you think you should?
  • There will always be someone in the room who’s smarter than you, so ask a lot of questions and don’t be afraid to fail.
  • There are few substitutes for personal resilience.
  • Make sure you take full advantage of the networking opportunities on LinkedIn.

Katy Cash ’24, a Chemistry major, said it was helpful to be able to compare the two companies’ differing styles and missions. “Medtronic feels very focused [on pharmaceutical and device development], in that they tell you what you’re working on and that’s it,” she said, “whereas Cargill feels a little bit more open to employees’ input in terms of different directions you might want to be going with your projects.”

She added that this was merely one field trip that Chemistry students have taken in the past year. “During the school year we visited the University of Minnesota and talked with Gustavus alumni there, so we got exposed to the grad school environment, too, which helps cover all your potential bases,” she said.

Another Chemistry major, Trevor Kempen ’24, enjoyed seeing Medtronic’s first-rate technical facilities, as the company’s market sector is something he’s already considering after graduation. “I was most impressed by all the resources they have,” he said. “Everyone has access to that instrumentation, which isn’t the case at universities or even here.” He also appreciated the variety of backgrounds on the Q&A panel. “It helped me realize that it doesn’t necessarily matter whether you make a right or wrong step; it’s more about just making a step in some direction,” he said. “Eventually, you’ll land in a position where you’re happy with the work.”


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


One Comment

  1. Tony says:

    Hey there! I just read your article about the Gustavus Summer Researchers and I wanted to share my thoughts. I really loved how the program goes beyond just the lab and provides opportunities for students to explore potential career paths. The field trip to Medtronic and Cargill sounded like such a great experience for the STEM researchers. It was interesting to hear about the different career paths of the Medtronic employees and how they all ended up in their roles. The advice they gave, like asking questions and not being afraid to fail, is applicable to all students, not just those in STEM fields. It was also insightful to hear how the students compared Medtronic and Cargill in terms of their styles and missions. Overall, it seems like the program is doing a fantastic job in preparing students for their future careers. Keep up the great work!

    // Tony Volkas