Roger McGowan, Research Fellow at Boston Scientific

Roger McGowan is a Research Fellow at Boston Scientific in Maple Grove, Minnesota, where he develops fabrication processes for vascular stent delivery systems. He received a PhD in Physics from Colorado State University performing experiments in laser spectroscopy and the laser light manipulation of atoms with Dr. Siu Au Lee. After receiving his Ph.D. Roger took a post-doc position with Dr. Dan Grishkowski at Oklahoma State University. He then returned to the Minneapolis/St Paul area where he grew up, working at Imation and ADC Telecommunications before arriving at his current position with Boston Scientific.

I first met Roger when we began graduate school together in 1989.  Through many long hours working in the same research lab we became close friends and I am very pleased to include his contribution to this project.

The following is an excerpt from my interview with him in January:

What is one of your biggest achievements in your career to date?

When I first started this job at Boston Scientific I joined a Process Development team that was designing a new laser bonding process for their stent delivery catheters. The group excelled at varying the parameters until they achieved a robust process, but they didn’t understand why the resulting process made a good catheter. The new process I helped develop had many controls and monitors so that we could adjust and observe the laser process as we were welding the catheters. It was fundamentally an engineering project, but what made it truly successful was my emphasis on a fundamental scientific understanding of the laser weld. This project was successful enough that the new process was extended to all of our next-generation laser systems. Championing this effort led to a lot of career development for me within the company. Showing them the value of a scientific approach in process development led to the creation of my current position, Research Fellow for Process Development. Being successful in this effort is what I’m most proud of in my career.

That is a great demonstration of the benefit of using a scientific approach in a product design setting. What would you say are the top two or three skills that enabled this achievement?

The most important thing was a solid technical understanding and the ability to teach myself that I learned in graduate school. This gave me the confidence to jump in and quickly learn about CO2 lasers and other things that were new to me. Without these skills I wouldn’t have had the ability quickly demonstrate how my ideas would improve the process.

Another important skill was my interest and experience in teaching and mentoring. Much of my success resulted from presentations that I gave to VP level folks who walked away saying ‘Wow! This is the greatest thing ever.’ It was critical to be able to teach them and help them understand my ideas and why they were of value.

My ability to dissect an issue in order to solve a problem was also very important. Any technology brought to market will have numerous challenges along the way. You have to be able to efficiently and effectively lead a team to dig in and understand it. That’s problem solving at its most basic form.

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