2025 Catalyst Program

Identify and develop research projects with high potential for healthcare impact.

The Catalyst program fosters the development of enabling technologies to address unmet medical needs. Catalyst is appropriate for those with interest and willingness to spend time in research, innovation, and health.

We seek a multi-talented cohort, including:

Why join Catalyst

This first six months

Catalyst Fellow reading whiteboard
Join as an individual…
Collaborative, mentored innovation process
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…by June you will be co-leading a novel research project with potential for high impact

Catalyst advantages

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Focused on real-world medical innovation opportunities

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Collaboration across medicine, technology, and business

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linQ Innovation Method accelerates impact

Experience highlights

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

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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.

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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.

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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 this prior 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
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“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 process

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Proof of Need

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

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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.

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Project Proposal

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

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Outcome

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

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.

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.

Other Catalyst roles

If you’re interested in Catalyst but a Fellow role is not right for you, there are other ways to participate. 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

Program details

Participation requirements

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”

Full opportunity: Multi-year, team-based research project, led by a team of Fellows. (Contingent on project proposal approval in July 2025)

Catalyst is a program located in the United States. We anticipate that Fellows will be physically present in the US from January to July 2025. Note that we do not provide sponsorship for visas.

January 2025–early July 2025:

  • January 6, 2025: First meeting
  • 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 at MIT: January 21–23, February 25–27, and May 6–8.
  • July 2, 2025: Final session
  • Compatibility with current job, training, or activity
  • As appropriate, approval of your supervisor
  • See FAQs for more details

After July 2025:

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.

Cost

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

RSVP for the info session

We invite you to join our online information session, July 12 at 6pm ET, when you will get an overview of Catalyst from Fellows and faculty.

Info session recording

RSVP for the info session

FAQs

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

    Read the FAQs

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

    Learn more about the VA–MIT collaboration

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

    Apply to join

    The Catalyst application is a multi-stage process designed to help prospective participants get to know the program, and vice versa.

    1. Expression of Interest

    Please complete this expression of interest form as soon as possible, but preferably before July 19.

    • 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, feel free to reach out to catalyst-program@mit.edu to discuss whether the program is a fit for you and your career goals. As appropriate, and time allowing, we will offer an opportunity for you to speak with a current Fellow or an alumnus.

    Applications for the 2024 edition are closed

    The Catalyst application is a multi-stage process designed to help prospective participants get to know the program, and vice versa.

    1. Expression of Interest

    The Expression of Interest form is closed, but we encourage you to submit your application, which will be considered on a rolling basis.

    Submit your Expression of Interest

    2. Full application

    Once you have completed the expression of interest form, we will share the link to the full application. We will invite you to complete our full application by August 5.

    • 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 five long form questions designed to help our admissions committee get to know you.
    • Applications received by August 5, 2024 (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 2025 cohort, candidates are encouraged to complete their application in as soon as possible.
    Start or continue your application
    Start or continue your application

    3. Interview

    • Invitations to interview are extended to individuals who have demonstrated the greatest potential to meaningfully contribute to the cohort.
    • A full day of virtual activities and interviews is planned for September 6. Please reserve 10am – 5pm ET to attend.

    Timeline:

    • By August 5: Complete your full application.
    • September 6: Interviews will be held virtually, 10am-4pm ET. Please save the date.

    About the application

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

    1. Curriculum Vitae (required)
    2. Reference letters (required)
    3. Reference contacts (required; we will not reach out prior to interviews)
    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]

    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.
    Catalyst partners
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    VA Innovation Ecosystem
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    MIT Office of Innovation logo