Richard Gray is a Biomedical Engineer working for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). He conducts basic research on cardiac electrophysiology within the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, Office of Science and Engineering Laboratories (OSEL). Richard also reviews cardiac devices for their safety and efficacy and provides recommendations regarding their approval for market. His passion for biomedical engineering lies in protecting public health and safety.
Richard grew up in Massachusetts, near Cape Cod, wanting to be a physician. He was interested in medicine early on. “I shadowed a doctor to find out if a career in clinical medicine was right for me,” said Richard. He was able to get a better sense of what a doctor’s typical day is like, including the unpredictable work hours. Richard realized that if he wanted the flexibility to set his own schedule, he needed to set his sights on a different profession. His desire to help people and his passion for pursuing new lines of research led him to bioengineering.
Richard pursued a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, followed by a M.S. and Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the University of Virginia. “My first physiology course was in graduate school, which was challenging. Chemical engineering provided me with a good background, but I didn’t get the biology or physiology that would have been helpful.” Richard advises students interested in bioengineering to pursue a technical background during their undergraduate studies. “You will be behind in graduate school if you don’t,” Richard added.
After completing his graduate degrees, Richard received post-doctoral training at the State University of New York in Syracuse. Next, he landed a tenure-track position at the University of Alabama where he spent 11 years teaching and conducting research. In 2008, Richard transitioned to working for the U.S. Federal Government within the FDA, where he currently reviews medical devices and conducts basic research.
At the FDA, Richard’s role is focused on studying the electrical activity of the heart in order to develop methods to identify the sources of arrhythmias (i.e., irregular heartbeats). He also serves as a scientific consultant to teams that review and evaluate medical devices, such as cardiac defibrillators. Richard regularly interacts with both clinicians and researchers. “I’m part of an important process that keeps society safe, while giving them access to new, potentially life-saving technologies. I see the benefits of my work everyday.”
Richard encourages biomedical engineering students to seek out in-depth research experiences. “It’s a better predictor of success in graduate school than grades or other factors.” Internships, volunteer experiences, and opportunities to shadow professionals working in the field are all examples of valuable opportunities to learn and become acclimated to bioengineering.