MEMP PhD student Khalil Ramadi offers birds-eye view of clinical medicine

An Engineer in a White Coat

A medical engineering student's lasting impressions of clinical medicine.

I am not a medical student. Yet I had the privilege of spending 5 weeks in the life of one at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA, as part of my Medical Engineering PhD program. It was one of the most educational and eye-opening experiences of my career - a beautifully diverse introduction to clinical care and a world removed from my usual day to day as a scientist and engineer. I've come to think about these 5 weeks as a birds-eye view of a day in the clinic. Clinical medicine is an interplay between two parallel worlds that seldom overlap. In one universe, there are humans as potential patients, going about their lives. The investment banker, the professor, the retired grandparent, the great-grandparent, the recent immigrant. In another, there is the constant churning of different hospital units and departments, the emergency room (ER), wards, surgery, clinic, GI, all referring patients to receive some care from each other, be it interventional, diagnostic, or a brief consult. The interaction of these two worlds can be seamless, but more often than not is like a spinning wheel trying to get traction on solid ground - rocky at first and hopefully steady soon thereafter. By observing this interplay first hand I have come to realize a few different points...

Avilash Cramer wins first place in AAPM Young Investigators Symposium

Avilash Cramer, an HST MEMP doctoral candidate, was granted the John R. Cameron* Young Investigator award at the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) annual meeting. Avilash’s award was given for his presentation titled “A Stationary Computed Tomography Module Using Photocathode-Driven X-Ray Sources.” 

Avilash works in the lab of Dr. Rajiv Gupta, Associate Professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School, who directs the Advanced X-ray Imaging Sciences Center at Massachusetts General Hospital. In a collaboration between labs at MIT, HMS, MGH, and NASA, Dr. Gupta’s group is developing portable computed tomography (CT) systems that operate without any moving parts, using a novel, miniature x-ray source that they have invented. Since their system is both lighter and cheaper than conventional x-ray systems, Avilash and Dr. Gupta are hopeful that their work can bring CT imaging to ambulatory care and to clinics in rural and low-income communities. 

If the Spacesuit Fits

HST PhD student Richard Fineman is using wearable sensors to understand techniques for coordination and balance that could help better understand elderly walking patterns and influence next generation spacesuit design. Watch the video here.

Elazer Edelman named Director of Institute for Medical Engineering and Science


Elazer R. Edelman has been named the new Director of the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES), effective May 1.

The announcement was made today at a special meeting of the faculty for IMES and the Health Science and Technology (HST) program. “Elazer’s strengths as a researcher, a practitioner of medicine, an innovator, and an educator are a fantastic combination,” says Anantha Chandrakasan, dean of the School of Engineering.

The Thomas D. and Virginia W. Cabot Professor of Health Sciences at MIT, Edelman has been a core faculty member of IMES since its inception and a professor in the HST program since 1991. He is also the director of the Harvard-MIT Biomedical Engineering Center, director of the MIT Clinical Research Center, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and a coronary care unit cardiologist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

MEMP PhD students, Lina Colucci and Katerina Mantzavinou winners of a Koch Image Award

Lina Colucci and Katerina Mantzavinou, MEMP PhD students in the Michael Cima lab, were selected as winners in the 8th annual Koch Image awards, for their image "Into the Fold: Using Origami to Beat Metastasized Cancer."

Photos from the March 8, 2018 awards exhibition are available here

Visit this image and other 2018 winners: on display in the Koch galleries (lobby of building 76). 

Read about the image:


Professor Lydia Bourouiba featured on NPR’s Science Friday

In a Science Friday short film, “Breakthrough: Connecting the Drops,” Professor Lydia Bourouiba shows how she designs tests to study infectious disease transmission. First aired in April 2017, the video is one of a six-part series “Breakthrough: Portraits of Women in Science,” which Science Friday is releasing at select theaters nationwide in March for Women’s History Month.

Link: to audio series


MEMP PhD student Nil Gural is first author on paper in Cell Host and Microbe


Human malaria parasites grown for the first time in dormant form

Image: Nil Gural
Story: Anne Trafton | MIT News Office

One of the biggest obstacles to eradicating malaria is a dormant form of the parasite that lurks in the livers of some patients. This dormant form is resistant to most antimalarial drugs and can reawaken months or years later, causing disease relapse.

Malaria researchers know little about the biology of these dormant parasites, so it has been difficult to develop drugs that target them. In an advance that could help scientist discover new drugs, MIT researchers have shown they can grow the dormant parasite in engineered human liver tissue for several weeks, allowing them to closely study how the parasite becomes dormant, what vulnerabilities it may have, and how it springs back to life.

After verifying that they had successfully cultivated the dormant form of the parasite, the researchers showed that they could also sequence its RNA and test its response to known and novel antimalarial drugs — both important steps toward finding ways to eradicate the disease.

HST faculty member Ellen Roche featured in "Understanding and Treating Disease"

photo: John Reidah
story by: Mary Beth O'Leary 

Excerpt, read full story here

Treating Disease

Armed with more knowledge of how diseases grow and spread, researchers are better able to develop new ways to treat, and in some cases cure, disease. Among them is Assistant Professor Ellen Roche, who is taking a unique dual approach to treating heart disease using both mechanical and biological therapies.

“The idea is to mechanically assist the heart,” says Roche, who also serves as Helmholtz Career Development Professor at MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science. “Rather than take over its function we just assist and augment it using a biomimetic approach.”

Roche uses new techniques like soft robotics to develop devices that mimic both the tissue properties and the motion of the heart. One such device is a sleeve that wraps around the heart to assist with pumping. Soft robots like this sleeve use elastomeric materials and fluidic actuation to mimic an organ’s movement. “By smartly designing simple fluidics channels and reinforcing soft materials in just the right way, you can achieve very complex motion with just elastomeric changes, and pressurized air or water,” says Roche.

MEMP student Erica Mason and her work at the MGH Martinos Center

Graduate student Erica Mason is as diligent and industrious as they come. Since joining the Wald Group in the MGH Martinos Center in January 2015, she has immersed herself in a project developing an innovative technology for the imaging of breast cancer, tackling the many facets of the project with no small amount of skill and finesse.

MEMP Alumni Profile: Fighting Cancer and Disease, One Lymph Node at a Time

Timothy P. Padera, MEMP PhD, ‘03, Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School

Tim Padera works to fight cancer and disease by focusing his research on a far-reaching system of the body—the lymphatic system. As part of the Edwin L. Steele Laboratories for Tumor Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital, the Padera Laboratory uses novel intravital microscopy tools to examine how the lymphatic system drives the progression of cancer through metastatic spread as well as impairment in anti-tumor immune function. In addition, the Padera Lab studies the molecular control of lymphatic pumping and how pumping regulates antigen transport and the initiation of an immune response. These processes are dysfunctional in a variety of disease states including lymphedema and bacterial infections.

Although Padera’s research program is based in the lab, his clinical experiences as an HST MEMP student helped him define what is needed to have an impact on patient care. Patient care is ultimately what drives the work of the Padera Lab.