2019 Catalyst Peer Mentor
Freddy Nguyen, MD, PhD
- Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Fellow at MIT
Freddy Nguyen received his Ph.D. from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his M.D. from the College of Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He received his B.S. in Chemistry and B.A. in Mathematics from Rice University. He has been the Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Fellow in the Chemical Engineering Lab at MIT. During his PhD, he received a predoctoral fellowship from the Breast Cancer Research Program of the Department of Defense – Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. His PhD focused on the development and validation of Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) for intraoperative assessment of tumor margins and lymph nodes during breast cancer surgeries. He also worked on the development of targeted multi-modal protein microspheres as a delivery vehicle for contrast agents to bridge the localization of tumor cells across macro scale and micron scale imaging modalities such as MRI, Fluorescence, OCT, and Magnetomotive-OCT. His prior work focused on spectroscopic techniques such as intrinsic fluorescence, Raman, diffuse reflectance, and light scattering for the detection and diagnosis of cancer as well as evaluate tumor responses to chemotherapeutics. His current research interests lie in the development and translation of optical imaging techniques, targeted particle development, and nanoscale sensors particularly in their applications to the field of oncology. He also has been involved in the healthcare innovation as co-director of MIT Hacking Medicine.
2019 Catalyst Fellows
Christopher E. Carr, ScD
- Research Scientist, MIT Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS)
- Research Fellow, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Molecular Biology
Christopher E. Carr is an engineer/scientist in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. Dr. Carr received dual S.B. degrees in Aero/Astro and Electrical Engineering (Minor in Economics) in 1999, and the S.M. degree in Aero/Astro in 2001, all from MIT. His doctoral work, supported in part by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program, focused on human bioenergetics of movement and adaptation to space, and led to a Sc.D. degree in Medical Physics (2005) from the MIT-Harvard Division of Health Sciences and Technology. He is a Research Scientist at MIT in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, a Research Fellow at the Massachusetts General Hospital in the Department of Molecular Biology, and a Scott M. Johnson Fellow in the U.S. Japan Leadership Program. He serves as the Science Principal Investigator for the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Genomes (SETG) instrument, and is broadly interested in searching for and expanding the presence of life beyond Earth while enabling a sustainable human future. Health-related research foci include single molecule detection, nucleic acid sequencing, genomics, metabolism, aging, and automation.
Christopher Carr has ideas that are out of this world. This is true both literally and figuratively, as his day job research focuses on extraterrestrial research. Since obtaining his doctoral degree from HST, Christopher has worked on various projects around space research, from how humans adapt to gravity to how to improve extraction from terrestrial analogues of Mars. Dr. Carr is drawn to extraterrestrial research because he believes that “space has risk but can be unifying philosophically and psychologically motivating. In understanding space we have to understand ourselves. The more we understand our place in the universe the more we understand how alone we are.”
Christopher’s unique philosophical thinking is a great asset to the Catalyst cohort. He brings his interest in technology research to the team. His belief that “never in the history of human kind have we had technology that does so much at such a low cost” motivates his solutions to the needs the Catalyst fellows are working on. He hopes that single cell DNA sequencing, nanopore sequencing, small diagnostics, and automation with neural networks advancement will give him and his cohort the opportunity to transform delivery in the healthcare field. Though we may be alone, he says, “each of us is an unbroken chain for 4 billion years and we are all connected as we are all made of stardust.” This connection helps drive his research for bettering healthcare technologies for all.
Jon Champagne, PA-C, MPAS
- Physician Assistant, Cardiac Electrophysiology, West Roxbury VA
An analytical, curious, and innovative Certified Physician Assistant who has been working within the Boston VA system in Cardiac Electrophysiology for the last 2 years both clinically and as a researcher, yet with expertise that spans diverse domains, including upper tier hospitality, data analytics and software development, and independent fundraising. Possesses a powerful set of successful attributes: a strong intellect, gifted collaborative leadership skills, and an innate ability to methodically analyze obstacles to consistently generate the most efficient means of overcoming them within a given system. Intends to incorporate machine learning and artificial intelligence into the abundant data landscape of the VA patient record system in order to analyze multivariate data sets as to address not one, but a multitude of issues facing VA patients, as well as to relieve administrative strain on healthcare practitioners.
Before even beginning the Catalyst program, Jon Champagne’s career was catalyzed.
The Catalyst program catalyzed change in Jon Champagne’s life before he even became a fellow. Recognizing his hunger to be at the forefront of innovation and research, Jon changed positions at the VA to be in a role that encompassed more research after he applied for the Catalyst program. Jon stated the “Catalyst program shook me out of my comfortable role and prodded me to do something more.”
Jon is excited by the implementation side of entrepreneurship, and learning how new technology is shaped for clinicians has been a thrilling experience for him. He enjoys the process of identifying a problem, heading toward a solution, and figuring out who the stakeholders for that solution would be—all critical to innovate and be a change maker in his new research position.
Anna Jagielska, PhD
- Research Scientist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Anna’s wide breadth of scientific knowledge, encompassing many scientific fields, has been extremely useful to her as a Catalyst fellow. As if two scientific fields are not enough to know, Anna Jagielska has mastered four scientific fields. She first mastered chemistry and then switched fields for her postdoc to study theoretical biophysics; during her second postdoc she pivoted oncology. Anna has brought her expertise from chemistry, biophysics, and oncology to research in the brain the central nervous system. Now at MIT, she studies the broader area of mechanical cues in cells that drive cell differentiation.
The need for better tools to complete her research on mechanical cues lead her to engineering. Studying engineering gave Anna more exposure to the entrepreneurial side of science, eventually bringing her to the Catalyst program. Anna had two goals when becoming a Catalyst fellow. First, she wanted to learn the process of developing well justified needs. She also wanted to gain experience and build her network of professionals in the field that want to further advance technology.
Though her scientific interests span many different fields from theoretical biophysics to entrepreneurship, she has found a common thread. Dr. Jagielska shares, “Quantum has beautiful accuracy but to grow in bigger models you drift from theory and lose accuracy; so you start from theory then end up in experimental solution. This is similar to the transition from [unmet medical] need to [finding a] solution.”
Amy M. Linsky, MD, MSc
- Investigator, Center for Healthcare Organization and Implementation Research (CHOIR), VA Boston Healthcare System
- Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine
- Lecturer, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
- Physician, Internal Medicine, VA Boston Healthcare System
Amy Linsky, MD, MSc is a clinician-investigator at CHOIR and in the Section of General Internal Medicine at VA Boston Healthcare System. She is an Assistant Professor at Boston University School of Medicine and Adjunct Lecturer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She obtained her MD from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (now Rutgers Medical School) and her Master of Science in Health Services Research from Boston University School of Public Health. She completed her Internal Medicine residency at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and both her Preventive Medicine residency and General Internal Medicine Fellowship at Boston Medical Center. She is practicing internist in VA Primary Care.
As a recipient of a Career Development Award from VA Health Services Research and Development, Dr. Linsky’s research interests focus on improving the quality of medication use. Specifically, using various research approaches, she has conducted multiple studies related to deprescribing, an intentional, patient-centered approach to reducing overmedication and polypharmacy. In her free time, she enjoys podcasts, training for triathlons, and hiking.
When thinking of the different types of research, bench research and clinical research are on the forefront of most minds. However, if you speak with Dr. Amy Linsky, you will learn about a third field of research: health services medical research. Health services research varies from organizational behavior in a hospital to navigating the health system. The branch of health services that Dr. Linsky is interested in is deimplementation of prescription pharmaceuticals. For those unfamiliar with the terminology, deimplementation of pharmaceuticals is preventing the patient from taking unnecessary medication that they have been prescribed and taking for a long period of time. She looks at when a patient is on a pharmaceutical that they may not need to be on any longer and studies how to facilitate the conversation between physician and patient in order to prevent the patient from taking unnecessary medication.
Dr. Linsky joined Catalyst to learn about the process and time tables for creating new ideas and to broaden her scientific connections to researchers outside of healthcare systems. Amy brings her skills of how to run systems and processes to her fellow Catalyst members. Being a Catalyst Fellow has allowed her to be part of an interdisciplinary team made up of more than just nurses and clinicians. She believes that truly interdisciplinary teams are what can move ideas forward, change the pace and broaden research.
Ravi Rasalingam, MD
- Staff Cardiologist, Medicine/Cardiology, Boston VA Healthsystem
- Clinical Instructor, Medicine/Cardiology, Harvard Medical School
Dr. Ravi Rasalingam is a Clinical Instructor at Harvard Medical School and a staff cardiologist at VA Boston Healthcare. He received his Bachelor of Human Biology and Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery degrees from the University of Auckland, New Zealand. He completed Internal Medicine residency at the University of Rochester, New York and Cardiology Fellowship at Thomas Jefferson University, Pennsylvania. Dr. Rasalingam is a clinical educator and has been recognized for excellence by physicians training in echocardiography. While on faculty at Washington University in St. Louis, he was the inaugural editor of The Washington Manual of Echocardiography. His clinical expertise is in echocardiography, advanced cardiac imaging and valvular heart disease. His research interests are broad and primarily focus on novel application of echocardiographic techniques in early detection of coronary artery disease as well as assessment of patients with mechanical devices to support the heart when it fails. He has received a strategic alliance research grant to foster collaboration between groups of investigators across difference disciplines, departments and schools.
While a junior faculty member at Washington University, Dr. Ravi Rasalingam learned from his mentor, Julio Perez, that you never finish your training: there is always something to learn and a new idea to explore. Ravi is intrigued by the complexity of questions, which is why he was drawn to the Catalyst Program—to have the space to generate ideas and ask questions. This program has allowed him to work with peers and faculty members to ask innovative questions, identify holes in his own knowledge, and build upon these questions. Dr. Rasalingam stated, “It’s amazing watching people grow with the program and see how they approach the discussions, and how they have increased comfort with each other and with questioning things.”
Prior to joining Catalyst, Ravi was not a novice when it came to working on interdisciplinary teams. As a physician trained in cardiology, Ravi’s work with echocardiography (ultrasound) has afforded him to work on research teams with physicists. Ravi enjoys the synergy that occurs when he as a clinician is working with scientists. He found himself fascinated by asking why we are doing echocardiographies this way, and noticed there were more interesting answers from researchers not looking at this technique in a clinical way. Ravi found himself interested in Catalyst projects in which he wasn’t an expert so he could ask what may be thought of as a basic question in the field but may not have a straightforward answer. On these teams he is able to provide the clinical context to problems and help them understand their pathophysiologies.
Aasia Romano, MD
- OBGYN Physician, Clinical Instructor for Harvard Medical School, Veteran Affairs Healthcare System Boston
- Faculty Member, Instructor for HST ICM 200 Course, Harvard-MIT Health Sciences & Technology
Aasia is a clinician who approaches patients with an engineering mind. Trained as a chemical engineer, she approaches problems, including clinical problems, by analyzing them to find a solution. This thought process has helped her succeed in medicine, stating that, “medicine is far from what you learn in the textbooks…every case involves problem solving.” Her brain was wired to approach problems in this manner. She was drawn to OB-GYN to be at the forefront of surgery, to think on her feet, and to apply her problem-solving engineering skills to high-pressure situations.
Aasia enjoys exercising her problem-solving mind when she joins the meetings of Catalyst fellows and faculty. She recognizes the need for clinicians like herself, on the “front line doing the work”, designing innovative answers to unmet medical needs—an opportunity Catalyst provides without compromising her clinical commitment. The conversations she has had while working with her peers in the program have been the most exciting part of the Catalyst program. She recognizes that the cohort thrives when they are pushed out of their comfort zone, discussing topics that none of them are experts in, and this excitement and energy drive the group’s innovative ideas forward.
Tarsha Ward, PhD
- Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard Medical School
A postdoc at Harvard Medical School, Tarsha Ward is an alumna of the MIT linQ community who has a passion for entrepreneurship. She has used what she learned from the IMPACT program to help her transition to the Catalyst program. “Learning from Deb [Burstein] and Martha [Gray] that you can get across what you want to say in five minutes really helped” she said.
Tarsha has always found herself drawn to entrepreneurs. She was exposed to self-starters at a young age as both of her parents have started many different companies. She says that she “inherited the ‘entrepreneurship gene’ from them” and started her own company in graduate school. Her side business was much more artistic than the biomedical research she was completing for her PhD dissertation: she embroidered t-shirts for her fellow graduate students with different fun sayings like: “Trust me, I’m a doctor”. Tarsha drove from Atlanta, Georgia to Hilton Head, South Carolina every other week transporting a trunk full of t-shirts.
The business dwindled when she moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts to join an interdisciplinary research group studying congenital heart disease. When she arrived in Massachusetts she used her artistic and entrepreneurship skills and pivoted: over a long road trip she recorded ideas for a book which she eventually converted to a 30-page draft. She hopes to someday finish the book.
With the future in mind, Tarsha would love to be part of a startup spinoff from Catalyst. Finding a need then working with her cohort to find the solution has become easier as they progress through the program. She has found that the projects have “taken a life of their own” through this iterative process. The skills she gained along with the networking and exposure opportunities have her set on a path to success on her dream of being an entrepreneur in a startup company.