Lab Coat Confidential: Eza Koch on robots and letting your inner kid out

This month’s edition of Lab Coat Confidential features Eza Koch, a Robotics Engineer for BioBots. By creating 3D bioprinters that print living tissue cells, BioBots aims to revolutionize the future of drug testing and organ transplants.

Earlier this spring, Eza invited a group of FirstHand students inside the BioBots lab and office. During the tour, he introduced students to the product design and development processes that he and his team work on every day. Eza and his BioBots colleagues consistently support FirstHand programs, and likely hold the attendance record at FirstHand student project presentations.

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Please share a moment from middle school that sparked your interest in a STEAM career.
In middle school I worked on Future City Competition, which is a regional competition, part of a larger national organization, and it was funded by some industrial partners. The work comprised of developing a computer model of a city, then building the city, and then also presenting it. It involved doing some basic physics equations. The arts part was interesting too – we had to design the city and actually make a model. We designed how we would lay out the city and how people would get to work and go home, and do all these things that you don’t really think about too much. It really sparked my interest.

As a curious kid, I …
Got in a lot of trouble taking things apart and breaking things.

What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is seeing everything involved in the full development of a robot. From the mechanics, how it moves, down to the electronics and motors, and the code that builds or comprises the intelligence in the robot. I’m involved in all of those steps and that’s what’s really exciting – to see it all come together.

How does your work affect Philadelphia community members?
Well we develop 3D bioprinters, and Philadelphia is one of the leading centers for biotech. We have huge medical and healthcare complexes here and big name pharmaceutical giants downtown. The average person will benefit from our work – when we have better medical support for things like tissue transplants, or organ transplants, and proper drug delivery, and drug research.

Any advice for aspiring young scientists?
They should build lots of things!

Why did you decide to get involved with FirstHand?
I decided to get involved because I’m really excited to see kids or young adults getting involved with science, engineering, and technology. There’s going to be a lot more STEAM jobs in the future. It’s a matter of positioning yourself, your city, and your community to be a leader in that field, or to be left in the wayside. My parents lived in Scranton, PA, which is an old coal city. When coal was a big thing, everyone did coal. Then coal died out because oil became the new big thing, and railroads weren’t running like they used to, and the whole city just collapsed. It’s kind of a ghost city. I think places like Philly have a good head start to become leaders in STEAM. Kids are the future of it for sure.

What would you say to a colleague considering mentoring?
Oh they should definitely do it. Just let your inner kid out, and don’t try to overpower it. We all have it in us. Especially at work when you have to put on these fancy facades, but really we’re always just little kids inside.

If you could go on a field trip anywhere in time or space, where would you go?
Can I go back to the beginning of the universe? That’s probably where I would go. I think it would be super interesting to see it all. I would be observing it all with some popcorn and a soda. Also technically that’s when time and space were invented right? The beginning of the space-time continuum.

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