Biomedical Engineering Capstone Class Spurs Innovation, New Devices, Anubhav Tripathi

Anubhav Tripathi, EMSTL Executive Academic Director

Congratulations to Professor Anubhav Tripathi on his work with 2018 graduating Brown students and the success they’ve achieved with their capstone projects. In addition to working with the recent inaugural Executive Master in Science and Technology Leadership (EMSTL) students on their outstanding Critical Challenge Projects, an EMSTL capstone requirement, Tripathi supported a group of Brown biomedical engineering concentrators on their capstone project that won first prize in the Advanced Healthcare Systems track at the 2018 Johns Hopkins International Healthcare Design Competition.

This project began at the beginning of the 2017-18 academic year, when Dr. Neel Sodha, a cardiothoracic surgeon, walked into a classroom full of Brown University engineering students and presented them with a problem.

While cardiac bypass surgeries save hundreds of thousands of lives every year, some patients are at risk of neurological damage following the procedure, as plaques and other debris break loose from the heart and travel to the brain. Around 10,000 people nationwide suffer these embolic strokes every year. The devices available to heart surgeons aimed at preventing these strokes — aortic filters designed to capture debris before it exits the heart — simply don’t work as well as doctors would hope. Dr. Sodha, who is on the faculty of Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School, challenged the students to come up with something better.

A team of five students from the class — a senior capstone course required for all Brown biomedical engineering concentrators — took on that challenge. Over the course of the fall semester, the students designed a new aortic filter, built a prototype and performed computational and benchtop tests to assess the safety of the device and its efficiency at capturing embolic debris without impeding blood flow. Their testing suggests that their device, dubbed Embonet, is effective at capturing and holding embolic debris while allowing blood cells to pass through. In addition to the John Hopkins award, the team has filed a provisional patent for its design and is exploring commercial options for its idea and hopes to license the technology to a medical device company.

Embonet is exactly the kind of innovative project addressing a real-world need that engineering faculty members Anubhav Tripathi and Celinda Kofron had in mind when they designed the capstone course.

The idea behind the (biomedical engineering capstone) class was to reach out to practitioners — people working in the field who have firsthand knowledge — and let them give us the problems,” said Tripathi, a professor in the School of Engineering.

By the end of the semester, we would like to see students come up with a proof of concept for a solution and a realistic attempt at a prototype. Students can’t just turn in a paper and get a grade. This is about innovation.

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