Understanding the physics of blood flow is helpful not only in analyzing its impact on artery walls but also in designing and planning various personalized medical treatment options.

Mahesh Nagargoje (PhD), our next pathbreaker, Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Department of Neurosurgery, Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (Trivandrum), uses computer simulations to understand unnatural dilation of brain arteries.

Mahesh talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about the significance of personalized blood flow modeling in designing biomedical devices such as stents, artificial heart valves, and flow diverting devices.

For students, the 21st century is the digital era and every field has to embrace it. Medical treatments need to adopt the use of computers in designing and planning various treatment options !

Mahesh, can you tell us about your background?

I grew up in a small village in the Beed district of Maharashtra. I was born to a farmer’s family. I have spent my joyful childhood in the lap of beautiful nature in my native place. I did my early schooling at ZP school Rohatwadi, Beed, and my SSC at NDVM Domari, where I met my first mentor Mr. Kshirsagar Sir who motivated me to become the best student in the class. I love to play cricket. I began my cricketing journey from school and it is still on. An amalgamation of sport and studies is a complementary combination for learning various aspects of career and life.    

What did you do for graduation/post-graduation?

I pursued my HSC in the science stream from PVP college, Patoda after which I moved to Shivaji University, Kolhapur for my graduation in Chemical Engineering

After graduating, I was not satisfied with the knowledge I gained during my bachelor’s. So, I joined Masters in Chemical Engineering at Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Technological University, Lonere. During my master’s, I interacted with my supervisor Dr. Vivek Sathe who had done his PhD from IIT Madras. I got inspired to learn more and join IIT. Later, I joined IIT Guwahati for my Doctoral studies (Chemical Engineering). My doctoral thesis supervisor Dr. Raghvendra Gupta suggested I do a PhD in cardiovascular fluid mechanics. I have explored that area for almost five years and it has become my passion since then. It was a stimulating experience for me to do research on such a subject which is very close to saving patient lives. Currently, I am working at the Department of Neurosurgery, Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Biomedical Sciences, Trivandrum with Dr. Jayanand. I am working on a project entitled “intracranial aneurysm treatment planning and management” using computational fluid dynamics tools. I was a very curious and an average student during my school and college.

I am happy to share that my research area is completely different from my graduation subjects. I think whatever you learn will always be useful in your career irrespective of the subjects. Though I am a chemical engineer by profession, I am working with a neurosurgeon and I will be continuing my research on the improvement of the healthcare infrastructure of this country.    

What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?

I decided to do my bachelor’s in chemical engineering without prior knowledge of the branch or motivation. I had heard from a friend of mine that chemical engineering deals with petroleum exploration and other specialty chemicals. Irrespective of any motivation, I dedicated my time to learning chemical engineering fundamentals during my bachelor’s and master’s. I really enjoyed studying various subjects. Learning is a never-ending process, so I am continuing with it. Currently, I am pursuing my research career in blood flow modeling in human blood circulation. Blood flow modeling will be helpful in designing patient-based artificial organs for treating cardiovascular diseases. I am very thankful to my PhD thesis supervisor Dr. Raghvendra Gupta for introducing me to this incredible subject. 

My first inspiration in life is my mom. When I was 11 months old, my dad died due to illness and left my mom, me, and my elder brother behind. I was not lucky enough to have childhood memories with my dad, but my mom brought us up in such a way that I never felt my dad’s absence. She taught me how to be strong in the worst situations and find a ray of hope in complete darkness. My elder brother stood by me in every situation I faced. Personally, I think such teachings and experiences make you a complete human being and which can’t be taught in any university.  

The incidences which turned my life:

  1. When I was in my 12th standard, I was rushing to my college and waiting for the bus. A person sitting on the opposite side of the road saw me, he came to me and enquired about me. I have never seen that person in my life, but he told me that he was a good friend of my dad. He was a zonal officer of Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) and he was checking MSRTC buses as part of his job. I was very curious to know how he recognized me in that crowd at the bus stand. He told me that I look like my father. At that time, I was 16 years old and it was around 16 years after the demise of my great father. Even after 16 years of my dad’s demise, his friend had a strong memory of my father. This incident taught me the meaning of life, relationships, and the value of helping others. My dad was a very good human being and always ready to help weak people or fight for them.
  2. I am very thankful to the people of my village for believing in me and motivating me to do better. They are the ones who shaped my thinking during my school days. They always gave me an example of my dad; how great he was and how helpful he was to poor people? In the absence of my dad, I got all his values and teachings from elderly people of my village in the form of stories. These people used to say that my dad always wanted me to be highly educated. I have always tried my best to fulfill his wishes. 

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path.

After my master’s, I worked at IIT Delhi on an industrial project titled “catalyst loading and its performance on trickle bed reactor”. It was a great experience for me to learn the IIT work culture which helped me during further studies. Later, I joined IIT Guwahati for my doctoral thesis. My PhD thesis was on “Physics of Single and Two-Phase Flows in Bifurcating Vessels”. My PhD thesis consists of two parts: Part I was dedicated to blood flow modeling of carotid artery bifurcation using various geometrical variations. The motivation for this research was to study the human blood flow circulatory network which consists of multiple bifurcations with varying geometrical conditions. The flow physics at the bifurcating channel would be helpful in analyzing various mechanical forces and their impact on artery walls. Part II was dedicated to numerical and experimental analysis of bubble dynamics at bifurcating vessels. The bubbles are encountered in medicine during targeted drug delivery, gas embolotherapy (cancer treatment), and various lab-on-chip devices. We have tried to understand the bubble dynamics at bifurcation by varying the geometrical and flow parameters. Understanding of such parameters will be helpful to perform the above-mentioned medical treatments very effectively.

I am really thankful to the government of India and the government of Maharashtra for providing me with free education throughout my academic journey. During my master’s degree, I got a TEQIP fellowship which was very useful for my personal expenses. Later, during my PhD, I got the MHRD fellowship as a junior and senior research fellowship for my research work.   

How did you get your first break?

I am yet to get my first break, but I have a few achievements such as earning a PhD from IIT Guwahati and getting very good feedback for my research work from external examiners. I am really thankful to Prof. Prasad Patnaik, IIT Madras for his kind words about my PhD work. His kind words and motivation pushed me to do better and contribute on a higher scale.

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

The major challenge was the absence of guidance from experienced persons. I was the first student from my village who dared to join an engineering college. It was not an easy task because I came from a rural background and did not have prior knowledge. Engineering requires hard work and persistence to earn it. In a similar way, the PhD journey was a memorable journey for me. You will face a lot of ups and downs during your PhD, but you have to be confident and persistent. I would suggest that my younger brothers and sisters find good mentors who can help them choose the right career path. A mentor is very important for reducing your efforts, and the time required to achieve the desired goal.  

Where do you work now? Can you tell us about your current role?

Currently, I am working at the Department of Neurosurgery, Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, Trivandrum. We are trying to use computer simulations to understand cerebral aneurysm initiation and rupture. Cerebral aneurysms are unnatural dilation of brain arteries. After a certain level of dilation, it ruptures and leads to brain hemorrhage. The use of numerical simulations can help in treatment, planning and management of cerebral aneurysms. Similarly, personalized blood flow modeling can be helpful in designing biomedical devices such as stents, artificial heart valves, and flow diverting devices. Personalized medicine is a very effective way of treatment and it reduces failure and improves the life expectancy of patients. 

What are the skills needed in your role?

Cardiovascular blood flow modeling requires a good understanding of fluid mechanics, mathematics, fluid flow equations, and mathematical techniques to solve such complex equations. In personalized blood flow modeling, we are required to use patient-medical images and create prototypes for numerical simulations using various open-source software.

What’s a typical day like? 

My day starts with checking emails, reading ResearchGate, browsing LinkedIn, and google scholar profiles. These are scientific social media that keep me updated in my research area. I have to do numerical simulations, then post processing of those results, and interpret the conclusions using various past scientific articles. I am very happy to do this work because it gives me the satisfaction of contributing to the betterment of healthcare infrastructure and helping to save the lives of people.

How does your work benefit society? 

The 21st century is the digital era and every field has to adopt it. Medical treatments need to adopt the use of computers in designing and planning various treatment options. In developed countries, use of the computer simulations is a part of medical procedure for providing personalized treatments. Every human has a unique organ and anatomy and devices should be designed accordingly. Computer simulations give the flexibility to design various personalized biomedical equipment at a lower cost. The use of computer simulations directs the surgeons for better treatment paths and better outcomes. It has been proved that such simulations will reduce the rate of mortality and increase the effectiveness of medical treatments.

Your advice to students based on your experience?

My kind advice to all students is, please follow your heart. The career you choose should be very healthy, you should enjoy it while doing that. If you are not passionate about it or not enjoying it then you can’t achieve mastery. While choosing your career you should explore various options and you can discuss it with various experienced persons. This helps you to minimize confusion. Please don’t do anything for the sake of your parents or the people around you. If you follow such things, later in your life you will be unsatisfied with your work and career. Lastly, I would say follow your IKIGAI, it is a Japanese concept that helps you to choose the right career. You should choose a career that is a combination of what you are good at, your passion, what you love, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for. I would suggest everyone please do outdoor sports and read books. Outdoor sports keep you physically fit and reading books helps enrich yourself mentally. 

Future Plans?

I want to be a professor at a prestigious institute or a scientist in the biomedical device manufacturing industry. I would love to have my research group which works on improvements in healthcare infrastructure using computer simulations. In the future, I will be working on digital twins in healthcare, designing various heart valves, stents, and personalized healthcare products.