- Biomedical Engineering
- Chemical and Biological Engineering
- Civil and Environmental Engineering
- Computer Science
- Electrical and Computer Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
- Tufts Gordon Institute
- Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences
- Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO)
- Center for STEM Diversity
Inspired to Engineer a Better Future: Akshita Rao
Akshita Rao, E21, EG22, integrates product design and fabrication with cell experimental methods to develop applications of bioelectronics and medical devices.
Optimism and curiosity are twin engines that drive the imagination of young engineers at Tufts, whose professors nurture skills, knowledge, and social awareness to help translate their visions into real-world applications. This year, as Engineers Week celebrates the theme of “Reimagining the Possible,” Tufts Now reached out to five School of Engineering undergraduates and graduate students who are bringing energy and big ideas to a changing world.
Akshita Rao, E21, EG22
Working in the Tufts Timko Lab for the past four years, Akshita Rao has focused on the field of bioelectronics. She integrates product design and fabrication with cell experimental methods to develop applications of bioelectronics and medical devices. This research has given her the opportunity to write and defend her senior honors thesis, which earned highest honors, and co-author two papers published in scientific journals. Now a master’s degree candidate continuing to work with Assistant Professor Brian Timko, she also draws on experience as a product summer intern at Corvia Medical, where she supported the design and development of manufacturing processes used in production of a transcatheter heart implant, an alternative to invasive heart surgery.
Why biomaterials and medical devices: When I came to Tufts, I knew I wanted to integrate my passion for building things with advancing human health. Majoring in both mechanical and biomedical engineering as an undergraduate gave me the best of both worlds, and this experience launched me into pursuing my master’s degree. What excites me about this field is that there are so many different avenues to perform research —both in academia and industry. There are so many companies and labs that are currently making smart materials and devices to screen the human body for disease and advance human health.
A big idea: The exciting field of biomaterials is introducing new synthetic and natural materials that can be integrated and compatible with the human body. Biomaterials can aid in developing biosensors or devices that can be inserted or worn on the skin to provide details of a patient’s recovery or disease, or even provide precise medicine. These are devices that people can use to detect many things—cardiac signaling, stroke activity, epilepsy, pathogens or viruses in your blood, or tumor activity. These devices give us ability to understand how our bodies function under certain drugs or disease, and I think that's what's so great about it. It really is a brave new world. At Corvia Medical, I had a chance to support work to develop a heart implant for people who have abnormally high heart pressure. A future iteration would include a heart implant that could self-regulate and provide other cardiac drugs and stimulants to improve blood flow. This means, once it’s inserted into the body, this “smart” implant can sense its surroundings and provide precise and personalized medicine.
Why progress matters: Innovations in biomedical engineering and better integrating medical devices in healthcare will transform patient care and recovery. Think about the invasive surgeries a patient suffering from a cardiovascular disease could avoid if instead a doctor could inject a small bio-device to locate damaged heart tissue. A smart bio-device like this could release the necessary drugs to the damaged tissue to the patient without an invasive heart surgery or could provide the doctor with cell signals and responses to improve the patient's therapy.
I used to work as a systems test engineer at Insulet, where they have developed a self-regulated insulin pump that works in tandem with a continuous glucose monitor, Omnipod. Based on the readings from the monitor, the pump will calculate and deliver the necessary insulin level to the patient. The most frustrating part for diabetic patients is having to constantly check their blood glucose levels and manually intake insulin but with Omnipod, just approved by the FDA, we will revolutionize diabetic therapies. It’s just the beginning. I believe we will continue to see more of these bio-devices that seamlessly integrate with our lives. Innovation in biomaterials and medical devices is the next step in developing smart biotechnology that can bridge the gap between disease diagnosis and drug delivery, allowing us to live longer and healthier lives.
This excerpt is from "Inspired to Engineer a Better Future" by Laura Ferguson, Tufts Now.