From Nicaragua to Akron to Miami, engineering alum credits his “transformational” experience at graduate school for his success
Based in Miami, Omar Ali Blandon is a principal engineer for the Negative Pressure Wound Therapy Division of Cardinal Health (CAH), a company ranked #14 largest United States corporations by total revenue by Fortune 500 with more than 50,000 employees. As principal engineer supporting the manufacturing division, he is responsible for developing and qualifying processes and tools to optimize the production of medical devices, performing testing protocols to validate the efficiency of processes and equipment, and supporting new product launches.
“The healthcare field needs mechanical engineers, too," says Blandon. "Lots of people don't think about that. I love helping people. My position allows me to put my engineering skills to use but in a way that is incredibly rewarding, impacting lives around the world."
Originally from Nicaragua, Blandon holds an undergraduate degree in civil engineering from the National University of Engineering (UNI) and an undergraduate degree in industrial and systems engineering from the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua. After graduation, he wanted to pursue a master's degree that blended his undergraduate studies – and UA’s M.S. in Mechanical Engineering program was the perfect fit.
“The University of Akron is recognized internationally for their excellence in engineering education and an authority on the study of polymers and materials,” says Blandon. “It was a no-brainer to come here.”
Blandon immersed himself into polymers, ceramics and metals, and learned how to come up with simple solutions to engineering problems based on research and mechanical behavior principles. His advisor, Dr. Shing-Chung “Josh” Wong, transformed his way of thinking.
“I owe everything to him," says Blandon. “He saw strengths where I did not and encouraged me to me to pursue R&D work over theoretical research. ‘Proof of concept’ became my new favorite word. Halfway in my program I was creating equipment to process and create nano materials.”
He also had the opportunity to work as a research assistant at The University of Akron Research Foundation, where, according to Blandon “everything changed.” Under the supervision of Dr. Barry Rosenbaum, Blandon explored ways to scale up technologies from laboratory scale to pilot scale. During this type of industrial research, his focus shifted from a scientific world to a more industry/economics related research.
"Dr. Rosenbaum guided me through a completely different world and helped me to find that point in which scientific research and industry meet," says Blandon. "He changed my perspective of what an engineer is."
After grad school, Blandon received a job offer work as a process engineer developing nano materials in Akron, but when Cardinal Health offered him an engineering job and the chance to relocate to Miami it was an offer he could not refuse. The NPWT division was looking for someone with experience scaling up R&D technology who had a strong background in materials.
Today, in addition to his full-time job at Cardinal Health, Blandon is building a small laboratory in his spare room on Calle Ocho, a cultural epicenter of Little Havana in Miami. His lab includes an environmental chamber, computers, lots of cables, and microprogrammers. Here, he works on developing electromechanical equipment and nano materials.
To students considering pursuing a master’s degree, Omar says “Go for it! The faculty is knowledgeable and supportive, the environment is ideal and welcoming to students from all over the world, the programs are affordable, and the opportunities as a student and after graduation are endless.”
Omar Ali Blandon received his M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Akron in 2015.