From Engineer to Change Maker: Somayeh Imani
|Group photo of Patrick Mercier's Energy-Efficient Microsystem lab. Imani is second from the left in the back row.|
San Diego, Calif., June 8, 2016 - Somayeh Imani found her niche in circuit design of wearable sensors – and it opened her eyes to the world of startups.
“There is so much opportunity in the field of wearables to commercialize technology,” said Imani, who is a graduate student in the Energy-Efficient Microsystem lab of Patrick Mercier, the Co-Director of the Center for Wearable Sensors at the University of California San Diego. “But commercialization is hard – you need a business plan and marketing skills –things that engineers don’t usually learn much about during their degree.”
Imani is part of the new pilot course – the first of four in the Technology Management and Entrepreneurism Fellowship Program – that aims to turn engineers into change makers through exposing them to the lab to market commercialization process. Participants earn a certificate at the end of four quarters.
We sat down with Imani to get the scoop on the class, and find out how she plans to use it in her future career endeavors.
Why did you choose engineering at UC San Diego?
I completed my B.S. and M.S. in Iran in electronics. I wanted to continue my education at a well-regarded, high tech university and experience a new environment at the same time, so I came to UC San Diego for my Ph.D. in electrical engineering. I immediately joined Patrick Mercier’s lab and began working on developing low-power systems for different applications, such as biomedical. I quickly realized that I enjoyed designing circuits for biomedical applications that could help improve people’s health, and quality of life especially in third world countries.
Why did you decide to apply for the fellowship?
UC San Diego has a powerful engineering program, but there isn’t much opportunity for engineers to get exposure to the business side of technology management. The startup industry requires knowledge of business concepts. After attending the information session for the Technology Management and Entrepreneurism Fellowship Program, I decided to apply. A lot of engineers think they know something about business, but quickly learn how much more they need to know to succeed.
How do you see this helping you to be impactful?
I realized I needed this specific skillset to help our research group bring some of their wearable sensors to the market. After the class is over, I’ll have a recipe for a taking a technology from the lab to the market and can apply it using some of the technologies we are working on in the lab.
What have you learned so far?
Each week we look at case studies and work in teams to analyze it from different aspects of business and marketing. For our theoretical project, my group is developing a cup that warms your drink to a desired temperature. We chose this idea because we needed something that had competitors – there are a few for this technology, and their prices are high. They are losing a segment of the market that a lower price would appeal to, so we are looking at ways to change the design and functionality to lower the price.