Chelsea Cornelius changes lives through product engineering

Chelsea Cornelius, graduate of Swinburne's Bachelor of Engineering and Arts

Bachelor of Engineering and Arts graduate Chelsea Cornelius is the award-winning lead engineer of the global product PeriCoach. She shares how rewarding it is to make a difference to women experiencing a common but life-affecting health problem.

"Like a lot of people in high school, I didn’t have a narrow idea of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Originally I wanted to be a vet, then a journalist and then a lawyer. My high school physics teacher suggested engineering.

Swinburne were well-known for a great engineering program and uniquely offered the engineering and arts double degree. I find maths very dry and so just doing engineering wasn’t ideal. But when combined with humanities subjects like, sociology, psychology, marketing, Italian and philosophy, it really appealed to me.

During my studies I did a professional placement (formerly industry-based learning) in Denmark at a large shipping company called Maersk. This experience was extremely valuable in guiding me. I learnt people don’t expect you to be an expert when you first take on a job. There’s a lot of on-the-job training and you never ever stop learning.

"It's really important to try and grab every opportunity you can. It might not be something you plan on doing or what you love, but it’s vital to finding your passion."

I worked at a physiotherapy clinic part-time while I was at university and that’s when I started thinking about biomedical engineering. While interacting with patients I learnt about areas where technology was really lacking.

After graduating and getting some experience under my belt, I got my role at Analytica, where the concept of PeriCoach was first brought to me. PeriCoach is a wireless insertable device that guides women in strengthening pelvic floor muscles to help reduce or stop bladder leaking. Investigating the product, I was shocked to discover that one in three women suffer from incontinence and weak pelvic floor muscles. It’s very personal and there are various stigmas attached to it, so women often isolate themselves and it can lead to depression.

The feedback we've received on PeriCoach has been fantastic. Some new mothers who weren’t able to pick up their children now can and others have gone from using 10 pads a day to almost none. The difference it has made in these women’s lives keeps me motivated.

In 2016 I was recognised by the Medical Technology Association of Australia for contributing in an exceptional way to the development of medical technology. I was absolutely blown away when I won the Outstanding Achievement Award. It showed the importance of this technology and the impact it has on women’s lives.

My advice to new graduates is don’t be scared to take a risk on a smaller company – they offer opportunities to work in different areas of the business. At Analytica I’ve been involved in marketing, clinician engagement, customer support and product development. Experience like that can really help you to advance more quickly and discover where your strengths lie. Ultimately, be flexible, open to opportunity and take your chances."