Hajim Spotlights

Bradley Smith

Class year: 2021
Major: neuroscience
Challenge: Engineer Better Medicines

How did you hear about the Grand Challenges Program?

I first heard about the program when I was exploring University-based resources for student entrepreneurship and was pleasantly surprised when I was introduced to the Grand Challenges Program by Emma Derisi.

Why did you decide to apply for the Grand Challenges program?

The Grand Challenges Program was a unique opportunity to connect with like-minded students who were seeking to use engineering to solve problems on a global scale. It was also particularly interesting due to its focus on important, underserved competencies to contextualize technology-based innovations in the societies where they might provide solutions to challenging problems, and the value in this approach is why I decided to apply.

Which of the five “competencies” (research, interdisciplinary, entrepreneurship/innovation, global, service) did you most enjoy completing? Why?

I most enjoyed completing the global competency. My particular area of interest is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and so learning about how TBI manifests in other countries, such as how it happens, how it is treated, how patients fare later in life, and ongoing international efforts provided a broader scope to my research, and certainly informed the development of my engineering solution.

Do you think you will want to continue work in the field of your “challenge” after graduation? How?

I definitely want to continue working on Engineering Better Medicines after I graduate. I intend on working for my startup company, WetWare BioSystems, to attempt to engineer a medical device capable of treating TBI.

How did being at the University of Rochester help you to complete this program?

The University was able to provide invaluable insight to almost every aspect of my venture, including intellectual property, neurosurgery, biomedical engineering, materials science, and medical devices. The University faculty are world-class, easy to approach, and almost invariably willing to help answer questions and provide guidance to any problem I faced. The University allowed me to explore each of the core competencies with expert input and guidance.

For you, what is the value of the Grand Challenges program?

For me, the value of the program is truly how it forces students to take a broader view of the engineering problems they seek to solve. In attempting to approach large, global issues with engineering solutions, understanding the context in which those solutions are being applied is often more important than the solutions themselves.