Samyuktha Challa, PhD, grew up knowing she wanted to do something that would make a difference directly in people's lives. She chose Stanford because of the culture of interdisciplinary research.
"I really enjoyed the freedom and flexibility to explore all my interests in various fields, and in hindsight, my choice of Stanford was indeed a great one." - Samyuktha Challa
How did you become interested in your research area?
Both my parents are doctors and I grew up on stories of how they saved lives of people every day and how happy and thankful the patients and their families were. So, I always wanted to do something that would make a difference directly in people's lives. I got into medical devices in my undergrad and saw a whole new emerging field which needed the creativity and ingenuity of Electrical Engineering and the compassion of Medicine. So, when I entered Stanford I looked around for such opportunities and found Prof. Ron Davis's Lab where I could work on, and be a major contributor to, sweat-based sensing.
Explain a project you're currently working on.
My recent work is on sweat-based sensing. I helped develop a wearable sensor array which can measure multiple medically important compounds in sweat like glucose, sodium, potassium, etc. The measurements are displayed on a mobile app. This way we can measure much more often and with no pain or disruption when compared to measuring using blood. Next, I designed and built a novel sweat rate sensor which works on the principle of hygroscopic expansion of cotton. Measuring sweat rate helps prevent dehydration in athletes and also is needed to normalize results of measuring glucose, etc., in a population. I also developed novel piezoelectric sensor couples which can measure static pressure.
My research is part of an endeavor to establish sweat as a standard fluid for diagnostics, which would help medicine become more personalized to the patient, speed up testing and ultimately ease the patient's medical visits.
Why did you choose Stanford EE?
One of the biggest reasons for choosing Stanford was the university environment which allowed the possibility to work and collaborate with the best researchers in different fields. I took full advantage of this inter-disciplinary research environment,
- My advisor, Professor Davis, is from Biochemistry.
- I worked with professors from Radiology and Biochemistry.
- I was a teaching assistant (TA) and head TA for an accounting course in MS&E.
I really enjoyed the freedom and flexibility to explore all my interests in various fields, and in hindsight, my choice of Stanford was indeed a great one.
What other activities are you involved with on campus?
I was really excited seeing such amazing people from different fields in Stanford, so I decided to take at least one course from each of the seven schools before I graduated. I came close – 6 schools: two years of Japanese; acting from School of Humanities; patent law from the Law School; biodesign innovation from the School of Medicine and Graduate School of Business; a teaching course from Graduate School of Education; and of course, courses in EE, CS, ME and MS&E in my home school of Engineering. I was really happy to dabble in many different areas.
I was also really excited to meet and make friends from all over the world. I kept track until 19 countries and then I lost count, but it was really exciting, insightful, and a big learning opportunity to know such a variety of people, and their cultures and traditions. I was also all set to go on a Stanford Teaching Fellowship to Japan to teach in the Stanford Overseas Program, but Coronavirus happened and it was cancelled.
I was also involved with the vibrant and enthusiastic Isha yoga community in the bay area and am now, hopefully, a part-time yogi :)
What are your career plans?
I plan to take an academic position in India. One important thing I noticed at Stanford was how the needs and problems that American universities solve, are geared to the welfare of the American people. In my home country of India, the needs and problems are often completely different. So, I want to use my Stanford experience to solve for Indian needs.
I am really interested in exploring what medical device engineering has to offer in enhancement of the fields of Yoga and Ayurveda (Indian Traditional Medicine) and look forward to solving some truly Indian challenges.