2023 Catalyst Fellowship Program

Bring your talents to identify and develop research projects with high potential for healthcare impact.
Applications for 2023 are closed

Research/Innovation Themes

The Catalyst program fosters the development of enabling technologies to address unmet medical needs. We encourage anyone interested in this end-goal to apply.

We encourage candidates who are interested reducing or mitigating disparities in patient care and access.

Consider the Catalyst experience if you:

  • want to learn (or learn more) about how to identify unmet medical needs and develop well-matched solutions (especially technical solutions),
  • have agency in determining what ideas you wish to pursue,
  • want to learn to make a case for why your work will advance medicine and healthcare,
  • enjoy working in teams that are diverse in terms of profession, discipline, and more,
  • value mentorship provided by a professionally diverse team of Faculty mentors, and
  • are a scientist, engineer, clinician, and/or researcher from any field interested in tackling medical challenges.


  • Initial commitment: 10-15 hours per week over 6 months (January to mid-July). Weekly meetings are held online, with periodic multi-day in-person “intensifications”
    Weekly sessions: Wednesdays 10:00am – 1:00pm ET
    Weekly discussion groups: Mondays 10:00am – 11:00am ET
    First session: Wednesday, January 4, 2023; Final session July 5, 2023.
    Three in-person intensification meetings: January 17–19, February 14–16, and May 9–11. Locations TBA.
  • Full opportunity: Multi-year, team based research project, led by a team of Fellows. (Contingent on project proposal approval in July 2023)


Thanks to the generosity of our donors and partners, this program does not require individuals to pay tuition.

Learn more about the Catalyst process

Catalyst partners
VA Innovation Ecosystem

Catalyst advantages


Focused on real-world medical innovation opportunities


Collaboration across medicine, technology, and business


linQ Innovation Method accelerates impact

Experience highlights


New project discovery with high potential to achieve health impact and without the constraints of a single lab or organization.


Process driven by you in a multi-disciplinary team based environment. Past teams have established new lines of research, launched start-ups, and embarked on new career trajectories.


Mentored by a unique network of leading experts in their field from academic research and industry that shortens the time to realize meaningful healthcare outcomes.


A proven MIT linQ Innovation Method that focuses on real-world medical innovation opportunities and accelerates impact.

In their own words

Catalyst Fellows describe their experience and outcomes in the August 2022 Information Session.

Also: Fellows Ravi Rasalingam and Lola Baird share their stories from the Catalyst Fellowship

Dr Michael Charness, Chief of Staff for the Boston VA Healthcare System, explains the importance of innovation to improving patient care, and how innovation achieved in real-world practice.

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

Germán González Serrano, PhD, 2011 cohort Fellow
See the Fellows’ projects

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

Germán González Serrano, PhD, 2011 cohort Fellow
See the Fellows’ projects

The first six months


Proof of Need

Proof of Need: Identify and evaluate relevant unmet medical needs by visiting laboratories, talking with clinicians, and exploring the literature.


Proof of Opportunity

Proof of Opportunity: Identify and evaluate a set of possible solutions. Meet with key stakeholders to assess their potential of solving the unmet need.


Project Proposal

Project Proposal: Develop a research project plan  with milestones over a 12-18 month time frame.



Outcome: Portfolio of validated research projects for ongoing mentorship, with real opportunity to transition to the project execution phase, project execution—exploration of funding and commercialization opportunities. Learn more about the Catalyst process

Who should join

Catalyst is appropriate for those with interest and willingness to spend time in research, innovation, and health.

We seek a multi-talented cohort, including:

  • Engineers, scientists, clinicians, researchers, designers, entrepreneurs, business developers, etc.
  • Experienced professionals
  • Advanced trainees nearing completion of their advanced degrees (e.g., postdocs, fellows, other professional degree candidates, etc.)
  • VA- and non-VA-affiliated;
    • If VA-affiliated, be from one of the sites in the VHA Innovators Network

Participants join as individuals to form teams and identify new lines of research. We do not expect candidates to have an ongoing research project to “bring” to the program, though having had some research or project experience is important. See the profiles of recent fellows, from 20222021, and 2020.

While we expect candidates to have some identified area of expertise, we do not specify that area, nor do we expect candidates to be deeply familiar with the research/innovation priorities. Through our process, Fellows working in teams learn from one another, gain from hearing the perspective of others (even those who are not expert), and sometimes Fellows have to unlearn (or set aside) what they know about a problem to open the door to observations and, ultimately, innovation.

Faculty serving as mentors will help guide you through the Catalyst process, which involves cycles of convergent and divergent thinking, trial and error, iteration, progress, reassessment, creativity, critical thinking, and more iteration. Although seldom a linear path, it is always an exciting one for those who are ready for a journey from insight to impact. You and your teammates will ultimately decide which projects to move forward. Applicants don’t need to know a lot about entrepreneurship or innovation.

Other Catalyst roles

If you’re interested in Catalyst, but not interested in becoming a Fellow, there are additional roles. Indeed, Catalyst depends on input and participation from a wide range of individuals, and in various capacities to reach our goals. Roles include (but aren’t limited to): serving as a subject matter expert, reviewing interim work by Fellows, professional development advising, teaching workshops, making connections, allowing shadowing experiences, access to labs or data, longitudinal mentoring, and curriculum development. If you're interested in participating in Catalyst in one of these roles, please complete the short survey linked below.

Catalyst participation survey

Common attributes of successful fellows

  • Ability to apply logic and critically analyze and synthesize a broad range of source materials
  • Ability to differentiate between validated facts and not-yet-validated assumptions, and to ideate a process to validate assumptions
  • Willingness to work outside their field of expertise
  • Ability to communicate ideas and collaborate with others with different expertise and experience
  • Ability to design, create and build new technologies to solve critical problems
  • Willingness to “own” your career and your project (rather than depending on direct supervision)
  • Ability to receive and synthesize constructive criticism
  • A team player willing to fulfill different roles in research projects
  • Experience in developing and implementing research proposals
  • Be willing to work in a process that is chaotic, creative and free of pre-conceived ideas or pathways

Catalyst Community Values

The Catalyst Program is aligned with MIT's Values Statement in our commitment to making our community a humane and welcoming place where people from a diverse range of backgrounds can grow and thrive. Because learning is nourished by a diversity of views, we cherish free expression, debate, and dialogue in pursuit of truth – and we commit to using these tools with respect for each other and our community.

Catalyst aims to address equity and intersectionality in biomedical research and innovation in healthcare. Race, ethnicity, age, and sex can impact how different people respond to the same intervention. Diversity of thought and perspectives through the lens of a participant’s background contributes to an enhanced learning experience, improved research and development, and overall better medical interventions.

Our community challenges ourselves to face difficult facts, speak plainly about failings in our systems, and work to overcome them. Valuing potential over pedigree, we know that talent and good ideas can come from anywhere – and we value one another’s contributions in every role.

Program details

Participation requirements

January 2023–early July 2023:

  • January 4, 2023: First session
  • Availability to meet during program schedule
    • Weekly sessions: Wednesdays 10:00am – 1:00pm ET
    • Weekly discussion groups: Mondays 10:00am – 11:00am ET
    • Three 3-day working sessions, which may involve travel: January 17-19, February 14-16, and May 9-11. Locations TBA.
  • July 5, 2023: Final session
  • Compatibility with current job, training or activity
  • As appropriate, approval of your supervisor
  • See FAQs for more details

After July 2023: 

While the initial commitment is for 6 months, given that the objective is for you and other Fellows to nucleate a new research/innovation project, candidates should consider the feasibility of working beyond the initial 6 months. Practically speaking, the time required will continue to be at least 10-15 hours per week, but many Fellows have found ways to devote more time than that to accelerate their progress. Again, no a priori commitment is expected, but if you are certain that it would be impossible to go beyond the 6 month period, consider holding off your application until there is some possibility of continuing. Feel free to reach out to us to discuss your situation.

Info session

    Hear first hand from Catalyst faculty and Fellows how the program works, and what you will get out of it.


      Want to learn more? We have detailed answers to frequently asked questions.

      Read the FAQs

      Want to know more about the VA–MIT partnership in Catalyst and what it means for VA providers?

      Learn more about the VA–MIT partnership

      Still more questions? Email us at catalyst-program@mit.edu

      Apply to join

      The Catalyst application process is designed to help prospective participants get to know the program, and vice versa, in stages.

      1. Expression of Interest

      If you think this experience could be for you and would like to speak with Fellows or Alumni of the program, please complete the expression of interest form.

      • The form will collect contact information and your resume or CV. It will ask you to tell us why you are interested in the program.
      • Once submitted, we will offer you the opportunity to talk with a current Fellow or alumnus of the program who can discuss your interests, what it means to participate in the program, and answer initial questions.

      2. Full Application

      Although the cycle 1 deadline is has elapsed, we will invite you to complete our full application.

      • Details about the application and the timeline are below.
      • You will have the opportunity to update your CV or resume and provide letters of recommendation.
      • There are 6 long form questions designed to help our admissions committee get to know you.
      • Applications received by 8/1/22 (Cycle 1) are guaranteed a full review and are prioritized by the admissions committee.
      • For Cycle 2, complete, submitted applications will be considered on a rolling basis. As we have a limited number of slots available for the 2023 cohort, candidates are encouraged to complete their application in as soon as possible.

      3. Interview

      • Invitations to interview are extended to individuals who have demonstrated the greatest potential to meaningfully contribute to the cohort.
      • Interviewees will be required to submit letters of recommendation and contact information for references by August 31 to complete their applicant file.
      • A full day of virtual activities and interviews is planned for September 9. Please reserve 10am – 4pm ET to attend.


      ASAP: Completed applications will be considered on a rolling basis and should be completed as soon as possible. Please be in touch with Catalyst Program Manager Melissa Parrillo to provide updates about your submission.

      9/9: Interviews will be held virtually, 10am-4pm ET
      10/14: Deadline to respond to admissions for program admittance

      About the application

      Documents and information you will need to submit in the Application Form include:

      1. Curriculum Vitae (required)
      2. Reference letters (required prior to interview)
      3. Reference contacts (required prior to interview)
      4. Application questions (previewed below)

      Application questions

      The objective of these questions is to know more about you and your experiences. Remember that Catalyst will guide and train you to identify and validate unmet needs, define solutions and design new research projects with high translational potential during the program. You are not applying with an existing project to the Catalyst program; you are applying as a talented and passionate individual with valuable skills to make an impact in healthcare.

      Please list your core competencies, including domains of expertise and experience (75 word max)

      Help us understand your CV in context. Tell us about one or two of your non-classroom, professional or research experiences—describe your role in understanding challenges, applying learnings, and influencing outcomes. (150 word max)

      Logical reasoning skills are foundational to the Catalyst process. Please tell us about a past research or professional experience where the application of logical reasoning skills were critical.

      Please tell us why you are interested in being a Fellow in the Catalyst Program (75 word max).

      What else should we know about you? (Optional)

      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.