Spotlight: Aaron Enten

Aaron Enten is a second year graduate student here at Georgia Tech, majoring in Bioengineering and adding amazing research discoveries to his already impressive resume everyday. Bioengineering is an interdepartmental program with biomedical and chemical influences that allows students to build their own curriculum and do things, like certain research, that they would not be able to do if they were only involved in one of the influencing departments in this program. Currently, Enten is working in the Mechanical Engineering lab of Dr. Sulchek. Dr. Sulchek’s lab focuses on biomedical microelectromechanical systems (Bio-MEMS). Most of the research is microfluidic based: running fluids through systems that are in the order of microns. Enten’s research specifically, is on blood filtration, specializing in sorting cells by size using dead end filtration. His ultimate goal is to isolate and separate the main constituents of blood into pretreated wells. Along with performing his own research, he also mentors undergraduates in the lab. Recently, he helped them develop and perfect a fully programmable mechanical syringe pump. In addition to his enrollment as a Bioengineering graduate student, Enten is in the joint PhD certificate program, “Technological Innovation Generating Economic Results” (TIGER). It pairs a PhD student and their research with two law students from Emory and two MBAs from the Scheller College of Business. These five-person teams work up to five years researching technology, finding out if they can apply for patents, determining how it can fit into the economic market space, and how to incentivize the end users and stakeholders.

Enten first started his long relationship with research during his sophomore year of college at Johns Hopkins University, where he double-majored in Biomedical Engineering and Applied Mathematics. He approached a professor whose lab he really wanted to work in, only to get rejected. He went back to the same lab later, talked to one of the Graduate students, and landed a spot in the lab. Later on, he would do research for credit in the same lab, and the professor would link him to a Startup company in Baltimore called “Infinite Biomedical Technologies.” This company researches bioelectric prosthetics, like robotic hands. Enten graduated in three and a half years, and the semester before he started his Masters, he worked as a Project Manager at the same company. Enten’s independent senior design project involved redesigning software and systems of the same means as the prosthetics and reprogramming them to simulate muscle memory.

Upon graduation, Enten got his Masters at Johns Hopkins in Bioengineering Innovation and Design. This specialized one year program was very fast paced and had him not only develop two medical technologies, but try and figure out the logistics to bring them into the market. He had to design one for developed countries and one for developing countries. For their developing countries invention, they made a noninvasive hemoglobinometer which when connected to an auto jack, could track the location of pregnant woman and other people of interest, as well as their health status. For their developed countries invention, they worked on a project that began as research on a noninvasive way to measure the perimeters of the inside of the inner eye to diagnose intracranial hypertension. While shadowing in the emergency department, Enten observed that the treatment of this condition was to remove a fragment of the skull. Factors used to determine severity of the condition were very subjective, such as verbal response. The startup is now based on a tele-ophthalmology mobile network and platform that integrates with mobile phones. The system can be accessed by the primary care provider, who holds the patients’ annual retinal exams, and makes it easy for them to store and recorder videos of patients’ eyes. Once recorded, they can upload them to a server and forward it, using the algorithm developed by Enten and his partners, to ophthalmologists who can then diagnose the patient and send the diagnosis back to the primary care provider. The project was already two years in development when he joined and needed to be field tested, so he got the chance to travel to Stavanger in Norway, Tanzania, Kenya, and India. The company, called Insight Optics, is now based in Dallas, Texas. Enten serves as the chief strategy officer (CSO), and the first minimally viable product will be available in the next two months.

Upon asking Enten about his decision to pursue further education after graduate school, he talked about his extensive list of pros and cons, and how he came to the conclusion that it was the best road for him. One of the main reasons he decided to pursue a graduate degree was his intention of becoming a serial entrepreneur. He wants to build his own company and is interested in turning new technologies into something viable. Enten said, “I love science and I love doing research, but I want this research to be able to make an impact on people’s lives. If you come up with the cure for cancer, but can’t find a way to make it economically viable, then no one is going to buy it, no one is going to manufacture it and it is never actually going to do anything for anyone. When you’re looking at medical technologies and scientific advancements, you can’t just look at them as raw unadulterated science, you have to look at them with how they integrate with economic advances in the society you want to bring them to and move forward with that framework in mind. If it’s profitable to make this product, then people will take interest, invest and develop it, and then when you get the end user to want to use it, impact will be made.”