Innovating at the Intersection of Biotechnology and Engineering: A Dual Degree Perspective

Priyanka Ram, MSIM ’20 + MS in Biomedical Engineering ’21, leveraged TGI and the School of Engineering’s Dual Degree program to bridge her interests and challenge the status quo.

Where engineering and innovation meet, new interdisciplinary opportunities arise to create an impact in the world. For students like Priyanka Ram – who recently earned her MS in Innovation & Management and MS in Biomedical Engineering – Tufts Gordon Institute and the School of Engineering’s Dual Degree program continues to be a popular choice to build technical expertise and the entrepreneurial skills necessary for today’s technology-driven world.

“Biotechnology is becoming more integrated; there are no longer scientists and engineers on one side of product development with business leaders on the other. The most transformational leaders can bridge this gap between science and business,” said Priyanka. “The MSIM + BME Dual Degree has empowered me to challenge the status quo and emboldened me to find innovative solutions to serve patient and industry needs by communicating effectively with all stakeholders.”

Bryce Klontz – a Lecturer in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and President & CEO of New View Surgical – teaches an entrepreneurship and strategy course geared towards biomedical engineers. He knows first-hand the need for world-class engineering skills and business acumen. 

“Creating a new medical product for physicians and their patients is an exciting endeavor. Creating a new company from that product idea can be even more rewarding,” he said. “Priyanka is a great example of a student who developed a strong appreciation for both the science and the business side of biomedical entrepreneurship, ready to take new product ideas from the bench to the marketplace. I would not be surprised if we read about Priyanka leading an exciting new start-up in the next few years.”

As part of her MS in Biomedical Engineering, Priyanka also completed research under Madeleine Oudin, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering. Priyanka’s research focused on repurposing FDA-approved drugs to treat metastasis, the leading cause of death in cancer patients. According to Dr. Oudin, the path to approval for new drugs in cancer treatment is expensive and lengthy; however, there has been growing interest in repurposing drugs already approved for non-cancer indications.

“Priyanka’s thesis project was on testing out the effects of approved drugs on the bioelectric properties of tumor cells and evaluating their ability to treat metastasis,” said Dr. Oudin, who also noted innovative dimensions Priyanka was able to add. “During her project, she was also able to bring a unique perspective to the business side of drug repurposing to the lab and shed light on the best strategies to get repurposed drugs to the clinic. Further, Priyanka applied her excellent communication skills and ability to pitch a complex concept and won the Tufts Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition.”

For students considering the Dual Degree program, Dr. Oudin says, “Seek out opportunities to get involved in the community at Tufts, within Boston or within your professional society to learn from leaders in the field, present your work and network with other engineers.”

While Priyanka’s time at Tufts University comes to an end, this is just the beginning to a rewarding journey ahead. 

“Both programs gave me multiple opportunities to present my work in front of judges, whose constructive feedback helped hone my pitching skills and reduce jargon, allowing people from any background to feel included in and understand my work,” said Priyanka reflecting on her time pursuing her graduate degrees. 

She continued, “The professors and mentors I have gained in the last two years encouraged me to keep an open mind and heart in anything I put my mind to, which is a lesson I hope to carry with me for the rest of my career. I am truly grateful for all the people who made this experience possible and so memorable.”