Alumni Spotlight: Nitika Chellappa
On the importance of communication and diverse perspectives in medtech
Nitika graduated from the MTM program in 2020, and is currently a Clinical Engineer at Abbott, a multinational medical devices and healthcare technology company.
We asked her about her experience in the MTM program and how she’s applying what she learned as a student in her current role. Here’s what she had to say.
What prompted or inspired you to pursue a Master of Translational Medicine degree?
I received my undergraduate degree in Bioengineering at UCLA from 2015 to 2019 with a focus on tissue engineering. Throughout my lab research, I was able to learn what it was like to work with doctors as an engineer, and at the same time understand the variety of pain points in the product development process. That’s why I saw the MTM program as a great opportunity: it allowed me to address the concerns I witnessed during my time as a researcher and apply solutions to help reach medical devices to people who need them.
What are you currently working on? How has what you learned in the MTM contributed to your work?
I’m currently working as a Clinical Engineer at Abbott focused on cardiac rhythm management. I validate product design for various devices in this field, including pacemakers and implantable defibrillators, which involves a complex understanding of product technicalities, design, clinical aspects, and user needs. Since the users vary from doctors, clinicians, engineers, and patients, an important aspect of my role is bringing all the various factors together to make sure the product is usable to a multitude of users.
Multiple components of the MTM program have played a big role in helping me with my role today. Not only was I able to learn about the ins and outs of the medical design process, I was also able to learn about the regulatory aspects that go into the life cycle of medical devices. The course units, professional speakers, and most importantly, the capstone experience, were critical to my understanding of bringing a medical device through development and to market.
What was your capstone project and how did it prepare you for your current role or future career goals?
My capstone project was a startup called Voyage Biomedical, which developed a novel bedside device for stroke care. Through this process, I truly understood the role of user validation in the device process. Communicating technical engineering details to clinicians, understanding their perspective, and applying feedback from user outreach to building the device really helped shape its effectiveness.
In addition, the fact that the mentors at the startup were former MTM students added another layer of support. It felt like we were part of an ecosystem and the alumni network was very integrated into the program.
How has the MTM degree prepared you for leadership?
Communication is key — and the MTM program instilled the communication skills necessary for me to be an effective leader in the workplace. Communicating scientific language clearly between many stakeholders is overlooked, yet very crucial in any product development process. The MTM degree allowed me to create a solid understanding of the subject matter, practice it, and present it in a way that was simple to understand, yet demonstrated technical expertise. It also helped intensify my excitement for the subject matter and become a mentor for others pursuing a similar path.
What advice do you have for someone considering the MTM program?
Don’t rule yourself out! This is a unique program geared towards people who are making a transition in their careers. The cohort holds people from different backgrounds who want to learn more about the medical device industry as a whole, and may not have a lot of experience in it.
Be sure to stay focused and soak everything in. The program goes quickly, and you have a lot to gain by keeping an eye out for what your interests are, and taking advantage of the opportunities in each provided by the program. Also be ready for a lot of hands-on work in your capstone projects, and always be open to building connections.
Is there anything else you’d like to add or share?
The experience would not be the same without the cohort! Our group became very close over the program, and the MTM team makes intentional efforts to support cohesion and opportunities for connection among peers.
Connect with Nitika on LinkedIn.
Learn more about Abbott.