M.Eng. alumnus Harsha Marupudi reflects on graduate experience and Oak Ridge fellowship

3/3/2022 Kaylan Waldron

Harsha Marupudi, describes his experience being in the Master of Engineering in Bioengineering program and how it has shaped his career aspirations.

Written by Kaylan Waldron

Biomedical engineering graduate student
Harsha Marupudi (Physics '20, BIOE '21) 

Harsha Marupudi, a two-time alumnus from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, recently graduated from the Master of Engineering  (M.Eng.) in bioengineering program with a concentration in bioinstrumentation. As an undergraduate student, Marupudi majored in physics.  “I wanted a career path that was based in applying physics concepts to technology that could help people,” said Marupudi. From this realization, he began taking nuclear, plasma and radiological engineering (NPRE) classes and working with professor Ling Jian Meng where he found a convergence of his interests in medical imaging. After completing his B.S. degree and working over the summer with professors Meng and Shiva Abbaszedah, Marupudi decided to pursue a master in bioengineering specifically related to imaging and bioinstrumention. 

“The M.Eng. program had everything I was looking for in a master's program,” he said. One of the various concepts that Marupudi wanted to learn about was imaging modalities ranging from diagnostic tools used in hospitals to clinical research tools like spectroscopy. Two bioengineering classes provided him with this opportunity, BIOE 571 and BIOE 572 (Biological Measurement I & II taught by bioengineering professors Catherine Best and Olivia Campos Coiado).

Taking these classes along with professor Jennifer Amos’ regulatory class (BIOE 598 RI) helped Marupudi develop a clearer idea about what he wanted to do for his future career. “I especially enjoyed the various projects in BIOE 572 where we had to combine different types of spectroscopy systems or come up with a new type of MRI. This was the type of work I was interested in for my career and it was great to explore that in coursework,” he said. Marupudi also mentioned that the M.Eng. program required many presentations, which initially he was anxious about, but found it a useful skill as he graduated and became confident to present at his current job. 

Marupudi also found the business courses and the capstone project to be valuable in his career. During his undergraduate studies, he expressed that he was never able to work in groups, but that changed as he was able to work with a group in his capstone class for a long period of time on a project based on developing an ultrasound device that can monitor how full a patient’s bladder is. Marupudi also stated that the business classes exposed him to operations management, corporate strategies, and product development, which helped him close his knowledge gap between engineering and business.

Currently, Marupudi is working with the FDA as an ORISE Fellow in the Division of Imaging, Diagnostics, and Software Reliability (DIDSR), within the Office of Science and Engineering Laboratories (OSEL) in the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH). At DIDSR, researchers focus specifically on medical and diagnostic imaging research and the implementation of AI and machine learning algorithms in these devices. Marupudi is also presently working on a project named “Quantitative Biomarkers” with the goal to develop quantitative biomarkers for evaluating bone health through the use of radiomics and machine learning. Although multifaceted projects are challenging, he feels like the M.Eng. program was a stepping stone that prepared him for this opportunity. “My background in bioinstrumentation is useful for working with the microCT scanner that we have in the lab. I understand the technology and engineering behind it.,” he said. 

After the ORISE Fellowship ends, Marupudi hopes to transition into an R&D career for medical devices. “I’m interested in developing novel medical imaging systems or transition into developing wearable sensors for various medical ailments. I find point-of-care and portable imaging devices to be an interesting field,” said Marupudi. 

For students looking or considering the Master of Engineering in Bioengineering program, Marupudi encourages students to apply regardless of their background in bioengineering. “The bioengineering department has some of the best professors at the school. All of them are great teachers and will take the time out of their day to help you,” said Marupudi. He also gave some advice about students still unsure about the path they want to take; “as someone who took their time to figure out what they really wanted to do, I recommend exploring. Find research opportunities or take classes that expose you to new topics. It may take some time to find what you really want to do but the journey will be worth it.” 

Thank you Harsha Marupudi for taking the time to talk about the Master of Engineering in Bioengineering program,  the ORISE Fellowship, and advice for students!

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This story was published March 3, 2022.