Erica Pratt's doctoral work in Dr. Brian Kirby's lab focused on investigating circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in the peripheral blood system of patients with solid tumors and how these cells can be used as a noninvasive tumor surrogate, and as prognostic biomarkers for survival in advanced disease. Read more about Erica D. Pratt, Ph.D. 2015
Saloni Verma, M.Eng. 2018
BME Degree/Year Graduated: M.Eng. 2018
Focus/Adviser: Microfluidics/ Professor Newton de Faria
Why did you choose Cornell?
Cornell’s lab facilities, faculty expertise and industry relations were a great opportunity for me to not only expand my intellectual knowledge but also to meet and work with some of the smartest and most driven students from across the world. Accepting the offer from Cornell was one of the best decisions I’ve made, I will always have the proud feeling of being an Ivy League graduate!
Why did you choose biomedical engineering?
I’ve enjoyed learning biology since an early age. The opportunity to apply that knowledge practically, in the form of technology to solve real world problems and advance in the field of medical technology, has been how I’ve wanted to contribute to society. Biomedical engineering equipped me with the right tools in terms of intellectual fundamentals to achieve my goal.
What have you been up to since graduating?
After graduation, I joined Rheonix Inc. (based in Ithaca) as a systems integration engineer to design and develop automated molecular assays using microfluidic technology. More recently I’ve been primarily involved with the design and development of the Rheonix COVID-19 assay, which received FDA EUA and is currently being used as an automated testing platform in Central New York, including our very own Ithaca.
I’ve stayed in touch with Cornell even after graduation; I was a Cornell delegate to the Clinton Global Initiative University in Oct 2018 and cleared the first round of NSF-iCORPS working with a Cornell-affiliated Professor.
A couple months ago, I started my very own YouTube channel with a primary focus on science and health as a way to spread awareness about COVID-19 and provide the right information to people.
How did your Cornell degree prepare you for what you are doing now?
The professional world experience which I gained through the M.Eng. Design Project along with stakeholder management prepared me with the right interpersonal skills I needed to excel at my current job.
Describe your current work at Rheonix.
Working for Rheonix has been a roller coaster ride! I’ve had the opportunity to learn so much within the medical device industry and am grateful to be part of the core team responsible for building various assays to automate molecular processes.
The COVID-19 project was an all-hands-on-deck situation. It became a priority very quickly as the disease spread so rapidly across the country early this year. I was primarily involved with designing and developing the assay which would automate the entire testing process at its maximum robustness.
For most people the past few months have been the slowest with quarantine, it’s funny, because I could never relate to that. The last 6 months have been the busiest time of my career- the work has been a lot but I am extremely grateful to have learnt so much with designing and testing the assay to regulatory with getting FDA EUA approval. I for one have enjoyed the added responsibility.
Favorite Cornell experience or memory?
Innovation and design for Biomed Tech (BME 5500), Entrepreneurship for Scientists and Engineers (NBA 5070), and Project Management (CEE 5900) were some of my favorite courses! They have helped me navigate through my workplace in a professional manner and even today I practically use the skills which I learned through these courses.
Favorite Cornell memory would definitely be the delicious collegetown bagels and so thankful for the GIMME COFFEE cart at Gates Hall to help survive with the early morning classes.
And of course walking up the hill for career day in 10 inches of snow! (not so much favorite but definitely unforgettable!)
What advice might you give to Cornell BME students considering a similar path to yours?
Taking courses that improve interpersonal skills on top of a strong technical background really helps! You know how to communicate with different departments within a company, it’s a strong skill to have and I would recommend students learn this.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Fun fact: I recently started a YouTube channel (about science, technology, and me!) to share my expertise on the COVID-19 pandemic. .