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Tell us about your background

ECE PhD Student Meenupriya Swaminathan has not had an easy path to engineering but once she was given the chance, she excelled. Her path has helped create her independent spirit and her outlook of opportunity being the key ingredient in shaping the engineers of tomorrow.

She is from a small village in India and was first introduced to engineering through relatives.

“I have a little engineering background in the family, my father, my grandfather are all engineers so I was exposed,” Meenu said. She was able to see and work on projects that her father and grandfather showed her, things like light dimmers.

“I was really excited about those little projects. How it influences, how it makes life much easier, those little things. That’s how I developed a natural like for tinkering with electronics.”

What did you study?

I did my B.E. (Electronics & Communication Engineering) from Bharathidasan University followed by M.E. (Computer Science) from College of Engineering, Guindy, Chennai. Iam currently doing a PhD in Wireless Body Area Networking.

How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?

Though many people from her village may be unwilling to send their daughters to engineering programs, according to Meenu, she was lucky enough to find a women’s only engineering college.

After coming to America to pursue a PhD, Meenu was temporarily bedridden due to a health issue but, as she has done before, she found opportunity where others might not. Her health issue gave her the time to read up on what would eventually inspire her field of research at Northeastern, wireless sensor networking.

“I requested a meeting with Professor Kaushik Chowdhury to discuss about the research opportunities in wireless sensor networks but he gave me a better idea, developing a wireless sensor network inside the human body. This was even more fascinating and I was instantly captivated,” she said.

Can you tell us about your research?

Meenu works in the Genesys Lab under Professor Kaushik Chowdhury. Her work in the lab focuses on enabling communication among implanted sensors for medical use, which would usher in the next generation of healthcare by in-situ testing of abnormal physiological conditions, personalized medicine and proactive drug delivery.

“The technology that I’m working on now, once it is introduced to society, will help a lot. It’s like bringing a whole automatic control system inside your body so it can diagnose, it can deliver medicines, it can stimulate a part of the body inside without requiring any intervention from the patients. We are now planning for collaborations with the endocrinologists in BIDMC to develop a diabetes management system functioning inside the body,” Meenu said.

What are your future plans?

In the future, Meenu sees herself continuing with research towards improving the quality of lives with impaired health.

“Even if my work does not qualify as a profitable business, if this is going to make a small change in someone’s life than I will do it.”

Meenu has also had the chance to mentor other students, including two visiting scholars, and that, along with her own experiences, has made her think about how important exposure and support can be to encourage young women to consider a career in engineering.

“They’re not motivated toward engineering but they can come up with totally different ideas in engineering and technology,” she continued, “Many of them don’t believe that they can do this, they don’t have the confidence to enter into an engineering college but if they do, technology will reach new heights.”