Spring 2020

Innovating for mission impact

The Spring 2020 Cohort will participate in a 6 month immersive experience to develop innovation and research project proposals with high potential for healthcare impact (Phase I). Participants will work closely with a cross-disciplinary team of faculty mentors in a highly networked community of engineers, scientists, businesspeople, and clinicians. Using the Catalyst methodology for innovating for mission impact, participants work through a structured process to consider real-world needs, plausible solutions, and viable action plans to develop proposals that, if successful, will lead to a clear and specific benefit.

MIT linQ and the VA Health Care are partnering to solutions that improve patient outcomes by addressing high priority focus areas:

Access: How can technologies and processes support the timely use of personal health services to achieve the best health outcomes? How do we ensure people gain the entry into the system they need? How can we work for underserved populations to deliver basic healthcare needs? How can we improve access to continuing care for people who are unable to make it to their closest hospital? 

Safety: How do we anticipate, detect early enough, and respond to potential problems in order to prevent negative consequences?  How can technologies and processes make it easier for caregivers to be efficient and effective?

Mental Health: How do we improve the quality of life for those who live with chronic mental health conditions? How do we prevent and improve outcomes for people with substance use disorder?  How can we better detect, diagnose, mitigate, and prevent mental health issues such as PTSD, TBI, and suicide? 

Cohort partners

Catalyst advantages


Focused on real-world medical innovation opportunities


Collaboration across medicine, technology, and business


linQ Innovation Method accelerates impact

“Before Catalyst I knew how to develop technology. Now I know the steps needed to have impact.”

Germán González Serrano, PhD, 2011 cohort Fellow

Experience highlights


Nucleate original need-driven research and opportunities with high potential to achieve health impact and without the constraints of a single lab or organization


Process driven by Fellows. What Fellows teams develop in Phase 1 is just the beginning. Past teams have launched start-ups, established new lines of research, and embarked on new career trajectories.


Mentored by cross-disciplinary experts from academic research, industry, and clinical care


Selected projects progress to Phase II in which scaling and commercialization are explored.

Who should join

Open to ALL in the Greater Boston area who are able to attend weekly Monday morning sessions on the MIT campus.

Several slots are reserved for clinicians from the VA Boston Health Care system.

A limited number of funded slots are available. They provide a stipend or partial salary support (at 20% of the NIH PGY 4 salary). Accepted candidates may inquire further.

We seek a multi-talented cohort, including:

  • Early stage professionals, postdocs, fellows, graduate students, clinical, and other professional degree candidates, advanced undergraduates, etc.
  • Engineers, scientists, clinicians, designers, entrepreneurs, MBAs, etc.
  • Anyone with interest and willingness to spend time in research, innovation, and health. No need to know anything about the focus areas.


  • Weekly sessions: Mondays from 9am to 12pm
  • January 6 to June 29, 2020 at MIT
  • Expected time commitment 10-12 hrs/week

Application dates

  • Fall 2019 Cohort Applications due September 8, 11:59pm ET
  • First Session September 10
  • Information session September 3, 4–5pm MIT Building E25 Room 119

The process this phase


Proof of Need

Identify, evaluate, and document unmet medical needs. Visit laboratories, talk with clinicians and explore the literature to create problem and need statements.


Proof of Opportunity

Identify and evaluate opportunities (need & solution idea). Work in teams for an in-depth analysis. Develop and document your opportunity.


Project Proposal

Develop a plan to launch a research project which outlines the milestones in a 12-18 month time frame. Present your project proposal (orally) to an Independent Advisory Panel.



Portfolio of 1-4 validated research opportunities, with real opportunity to transition to Phase II—exploration of funding and commercialization opportunities.

Apply to join

Open to ALL in the Greater Boston area who are able to attend weekly Tuesday afternoon sessions on the MIT campus.

Course credit

MIT students and cross-registrants can receive course credit

Applications are closed

Catalyst projects

Catalyst projects involve Fellows and their international teams of collaborators. They focus on identifying unmet medical needs that can be addressed by new biomedical technologies. Successful Catalyst projects demonstrate a real potential for healthcare impact.
See the projects

Spring 2020 Fellows

Mercy Asiedu

Mercy Asiedu, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab

Lola Baird

Lola Baird, LICSW

Senior Social Worker and Program Coordinator for the Polytrauma/Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, VA Boston Healthcare System

Vyda Bielkus

Vyda Bielkus

CEO Health Yoga Life, EMBA Candidate at MIT Sloan School of Management

Mark Drinkwater

Mark Drinkwater, MSN

Acute Care Nurse Practitioner at VA Boston Healthcare System in Emergency Services

Amy Hanson

Amy Hanson

Assistant Nurse Manager VA Boston Healthcare System

Trina Johnson

Natrina Johnson, PhD

Candidate in Health Services Research at Boston University School of Public Health, and researcher in the VA Boston Healthcare System

Nahum Kim

Nahun Kim

MS Candidate at MIT’s Integrated Design + Management

Jonathan Li

Jonathan Li

PhD Candidate in Computational & Systems Biology at MIT

Chelsey Solar

Chelsey Solar, PhD

Fellow in Medical Informatics at VA Boston Healthcare System

Smithri Sunil

Smrithi Sunil, PhD

Candidate in the Biomedical Engineering Department at Boston University

Eric Swart

Eric Swart, MD

Assistant Professor at University of Massachusetts

Christine Zhang

Christine Zhang

MBA Candidate MIT Sloan School of Management

Kai Zhang

Kai Zhang, PhD

Project Manager, QIAGEN

Spring 2020 Faculty

Pamela Bellino

Pamela Bellino, MA, OTR/L

  • Director of Patient Safety VA Boston Healthcare System
  • Lean Healthcare Black Belt
  • Faculty of the Medicine/Surgery/Psychiatry VA Chief Resident in Quality and Safety (CRQ&S) training program at VA Boston Healthcare System
  • Faculty of the Ambulatory Patient Safety and Quality Improvement (QI) rotation BMC Medicine Resident Program at VA Boston Healthcare System
Lars Frølund

Lars Frølund, PhD

  • Research Director, MIT Innovation Initiative
  • Visiting Fellow at the MIT Sloan School of Management
Stephan Gaehde

Stephan Gaehde, MD, MPH

  • Boston VA Medical Informatics Fellowship Program Director
  • Boston VA Chief of Emergency Services
Dimitra Georganopoulou

Dimitra Georganopoulou

  • Venture Partner, FundRx
  • Chief Business Officer, MyGenomeRx
  • Director, Women in Bio
  • Formerly with Baxter International
Martha Gray

Martha Gray, PhD

  • J. W. Kieckhefer Professor of Health Sciences and Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Director, MIT linQ
Jacob Hooker

Jacob Hooker, PhD

  • Phyllis and Jerome Lyle Rappaport MGH Research Scholar
  • Professor of Radiology, Harvard Medical School
  • Director of Radiochemistry, Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging
Jacob Hooker

Beth Kahn

  • Associate Director, NE I-Corps
  • NSF I-Corps Instructor
Tim Padera

Timothy Padera, PhD

  • Associate Professor in Radiation Oncology, Harvard Medical School
  • Assistant in Biology, Edwin L. Steele Laboratory for Tumor Biology
Alice Lin Pomponio

Alice Lin Pomponio, MPP

  • Managing Director, American Cancer Society BrightEdge
  • Advisor, Red Sky Partners
  • Founder, Accendo
Andy Shin

Andy Shin, JD, MPH

  • Chief Operating Officer for the AHA Center for Health Innovation
Nancy Steele

Nancy R. Steele

  • MIT linQ Faculty
Ben Vakoc

Benjamin Vakoc, PhD

  • Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School
  • Massachusetts General Hospital Wellman Center for Photomedicine

Spring 2020 Independent Advisory Board

Saurabha Bhatnagar

Saurabha Bhatnagar, MD

  • Chief Medical Officer, Head of Technology & Performance, UnitedHealthcare
Bonnie Charland

Bonnie Charland, PhD

  • Associate Director of Quality Management, VA Boston Healthcare System
Heather Davidson

Heather Davidson, MD

  • Deputy Chief of Staff, VA Boston HCS; Hospitalist
  • Assistant Professor at Boston University School of Medicine
Melinda Decker

Melinda Decker

  • Chief Commercial Officer, Mymee
Samuel “Mooly” Dinnar

Samuel “Mooly” Dinnar

  • Founder of Meedance
  • Instructor at Harvard and MIT
  • Author of "Entrepreneurial Negotiation"
Will Febbo

Will Febbo

  • CEO of OptimizeRx
Christiana Iyasare

Christiana Iyasare, MD

  • Director, Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Medicine Innovation Program
  • Co-Founder, Dyrnamix, Inc.
Terry Keane

Terry Keane, PhD

  • Associate Chief of Staff for Research and Development at VA Boston Healthcare System
  • Director of the National Center for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder’s Behavioral Science Division
Daphne Psacharopoulos

Daphne Psacharopoulos

  • Digital Integration at CVS Health
Smithri Sunil

Jagesh Shah, PhD

  • Vice President, Gene Therapy Technologies at Sana Biotechnology, Inc.
Barry Stein

Barry Stein, MD, MBA, FSIR, FACR, RPVI

  • Chief Clinical Innovation Officer at Hartford HealthCare
Christine Zhang

Frances Toneguzzo, PhD

Intellectual Property and Business Strategy Consultant