KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Among this year’s graduating seniors is Bridgitt Cornish, an industrial and entrepreneurial engineering student who is part of a team that conducted an analysis of an aseptic manufacturing system for Pfizer as their project for this semester’s Senior Design Engineering Conference. While Senior Design projects are always special, Bridgitt’s project has an especially unique twist. One of her team’s industry sponsors from Pfizer is Bridgitt’s mom and fellow Bronco, Robyn Cornish, B.S.’98.Bridgitt and her team members—Matthew Baker and Caleb Norder, both industrial and entrepreneurial engineering majors—used flow charts, value stream mapping, and simulation to determine if Pfizer’s process for sterilizing and utilizing rubber stoppers could be improved. As the global leader in vaccine production, each injectable product manufactured includes a rubber stopper to seal every vial transported worldwide. The team’s analysis will enable Pfizer to more effectively utilize plant resources to meet varying demand. Robyn and Jason Cassiday, director and team leader of operational excellence at Pfizer, sponsored the project.
Connecting for Senior Design was one more opportunity for Bridgitt and Robyn to share their industrial engineering experiences with each other.
“I find it exciting to connect with my daughter on most topics regarding industrial engineering. It is rewarding to watch her understand the inner workings of an assembly process, planning a work cell and puzzling out a project plan,” says Robyn, process automation compliance lead at Pfizer. “The path of a young engineer takes perseverance, tenacity and the ability to be adaptable. I enjoy sharing my career successes and challenges as well as hearing hers.”
For Bridgitt, learning about industrial engineering included watching her mom work. “I loved watching the spreadsheets and analyses she was working with,” says Bridgitt. “I would always ask her questions about what she was doing and I always thought what she did was interesting.”
And watching her mom and dad, electrical engineer Tom Cornish, B.S.’98, helped with her decision to attend Western.
“I chose WMU partly because I knew a lot of the professors here from field trips I had taken with my school, but also because I knew WMU had a good engineering program as I will be a third-generation Bronco engineer,” she explains.
These industrial engineers shared perspectives on the opportunities and challenges of the field.
Bridgit says, “The diversity of skills, industries and projects you can really apply industrial engineering (IE) principles to is exciting. There is so much happening right now with the development of sustainable manufacturing and transportation. IE practices to improve waste reduction for time, labor and materials is becoming more and more important for all industries. I enjoy the idea of being able to work in any industry. And for all of those industries, the lessons of a global pandemic included improving flexibility and versatility as well as making the most of all materials to address supply chain shortages that disrupt inventory ordering across the world. Our professors have really helped us to be able to evaluate problems and find solutions that encompass as many aspects of the system as possible to help plan for potential issues like that.”
Robyn adds, “One of the biggest challenges I observe in any of the industries I have worked in is the diversity of the workforce. As the past president and a current member of South-Central Michigan Society of Women Engineers I strive to bring more STEM connection to girls and women. It is a challenge and I want to impress on them that they have a lot to give to the any engineering industry and can obtain a position in a solid company. Even once in the company I work to help mentor and support the women in my company for knowledge, opportunities and collaboration. I did not always have this support in my early career, but I did have a few key allies who helped bolster me and keep me motivated to be a successful, independent and resilient engineer.”
Both of the Cornishes have fond memories of WMU and goals for the future. For Robyn, that involves skills she uses in her career still today as well as watching Bridgitt and her brother, Sean Cornish, become Bronco engineers. Sean is an electrical engineering student who plans to graduate in 2026.
“I enjoy having WMU in my backyard. Attending local campus activities and sporting events with my family keeps the Bronco spirit fresh,” says Robyn. “I also enjoy connecting with the college of engineering either through activities with my children, joint events with Society of Women Engineer sections or connecting professionally with the senior design projects. I would like to leave my career having improved my area of focus for the future.”
Bridgitt’s time with the Bronco Racing team stands out among all her memories of Western. “It’s where I’ve made some of my best friends and memories,” says Bridgitt, who will launch her career at Walt Disney Company in May. “From our late nights working in the lab to our actual competitions, I’ve learned so much from the team that I would have never expected to learn otherwise.”
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