"I’m developing vaccines that better mimic pathogens and can activate the memory of the immune system as if it was the real thing, derived from harmless bacteria. These types of vaccines are very versatile, safe, and easy to produce. My particular project focuses on combining different immune activators on one molecule to enhance the immune response." Read more about Mariela Rivera-De Jesús
Alumni Spotlight: Karan Raje, M.Eng. 2013
Hometown: Hillsborough, NJ
BME Degree (Year Graduated): M.Eng. (May 2013)
At the time, Cornell was one of the few programs that was offering the M.Eng. degree for biomedical engineering. I wanted to keep my focus on BME, and having a chance to study at a school with a renowned reputation for engineering made it a double positive! Coming from an urban undergraduate setting, I really enjoyed my time in Ithaca which had a more intimate, college-town feel.
Why biomedical engineering?
I studied biomedical engineering in undergrad as well, and what drew me to it was the ability to be at the intersection of engineering and medicine. I always had a keen interest in medicine and health but felt that my strengths lay more on the engineering aspects such as math and physics. BME allowed me to leverage my strengths while still having an impact to the medical community.
What have you been up to since graduating?
Upon graduating from Cornell, I continued my focus on BME and joined Vasoptic Medical, an early-stage medical device start-up based in the Washington D.C. area. As one of the first employees, I was able to take part in the engineering (product design and testing) and business (creating pitch decks, business plans, grant proposals) aspects of the company.
After a few years at Vasoptic, I pivoted roles and became a strategy consultant for the life sciences industry at Putnam Associates, a consulting firm based in Boston. There I got a chance to further develop my industry knowledge and business acumen by working with large global biopharma and medical device clients on their commercial strategy.
While I thought I would never return back to school, four years in consulting and exposure to different roles/companies made me consider pursuing an MBA. I enrolled in London Business School for a full-time MBA last August and am currently finishing my first year. Moving abroad and meeting so many peers from different countries and industries has certainly been a highlight!
How did your Cornell degree prepare you for what you are doing now?
While the one year M.Eng degree went by fast, I learned a lot through my time there. The core courses of the M.Eng were critical in helping sharpen my foundational knowledge of BME, and elective courses such “Entrepreneurship for Scientists and Engineers” played a big role in me pursuing a start-up post Cornell. The alumni network has also been a great asset and is something I have tapped into time and time again for new opportunities and professional guidance throughout my career.
Favorite Cornell experience or memory?
“Pizza and Wings” Fridays at Scalehouse with my M.Eng classmates. A tradition we started early in the degree and stuck with the entire year. Thursday happy hours at the Big Red Barn were also a great way to meet fellow classmates. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Slope Day.
Any advice to Cornell BME students considering a similar path to yours?
Use your time at Cornell to step out of comfort zone! The school offers so many great clubs, activities and speakers who come to campus which are all great to help expand your perspective. As cliché as it might sound, take the time to get to know your classmates and faculty as well. You never know when you might cross paths again, whether starting a new business venture together, meeting up in a city where you just moved to, or just general life advice.
Anything else you’d like to share?
With so many Cornell alum helping me throughout and after my time there, I’d love to pay it forward! If any of you ever want to chat about BME, start-ups, consulting, pursuing an MBA, etc. or even other important things such as where is the best place for bagel sandwiches in Ithaca (obviously Collegetown Bagels), feel free to reach out!
Favorite quote that helps inspire you in your work/life?
“There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.’ – Nelson Mandela