The Brown Capstone Difference: Real-World Change

Brown University is known among the Ivy’s for its excellence in interdisciplinary and critical thinking – a pedagogical approach that drives our students to defy convention for real-world impact. At the School for Professional Studies, we imbue our Executive Master curriculum with this ethos. We provide executive students with a highly curated think-tank of Ivy league professors and a cohort of professional experts prepared to challenge ideas from different perspectives. In this cross-current of ideas, innovation is born.

The culmination of this intensive deliberation is in the fulfillment of our Executive Master programs’ capstone requirement. Whether it’s planning for cutting-edge new businesses or expansions for major global corporations, our Executive Master students leverage this course requirement to change industry in line with Brown’s mission to create a more just and prosperous world.

The Brown Alumni Magazine (BAM) is filled with the successes of our esteemed alumni. However, it recently reported on the value of Brown University, particularly the hands-on-guidance and brilliance of our faculty, to empower students to advance real-world solutions not just after graduation but before.

At the heart of this story is Brown Professor of Engineering Anubhav Tripathi who, in addition to his position as Executive Academic Director of the Executive Master in Science and Technology Leadership (EMSTL) program, supported a group of Brown undergraduate 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.

Commenting on the project, Tripathi said,

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. By the end of the semester, we expect to see students come up with a proof of concept for a solution and a realistic attempt at a prototype.

At Brown University, students can’t just turn in a paper and get a grade. This is about innovation.

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 up 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.

To read more, go to the Brown Alumni Magazine article here.

We also encourage you to peruse the Brown School for Professional Studies News Page to learn how Brown’s Executive Master students are impacting the world with their capstone projects. 

Anubhav Tripathi, EMSTL Executive Academic Director

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