Posted on 9/16/2014. Interview by Howie Rhee and Marie-Angela Della Pia
Tell us about yourself
I was raised in north of Iran by the Caspian sea, and finished college in the capital, Tehran. I then moved to Canada to work on my Master's at Queen's University, by the beautiful thousand islands. I just finished my PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke this summer which brought me to working on shaping a startup in breast imaging as a spin off of my doctoral work. The focus of my dissertation is on realizing "virtual" clinical trials in breast imaging; developing and applying models and tools that can help run a clinical trial virtually and credibly. Conducting actual clinical trials are simply not possible for evaluating every aspect of a technology, they are costly, and can expose the population to unnecessary radiation. One of the tools that I worked on was physical breast models that can generate realistic 2D and 3D images. The goal of my startup is to commercialize these models to use in running virtual clinical trials as well as day to day quality assurance testing of 2D and 3D breast imaging.
Tell us about your time at Duke, what were you involved in?
I absolutely enjoyed my time at Duke. I met great people, got exposed to new areas of research, and took part in entrepreneurship, student government, and the many extracurricular opportunities around campus.
What's your major/program and when will you be graduating? Tell us something about your educational experience at Duke.
I graduated this summer with a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering. I pretty much met with all my committee members from across disciplines once a month, which is quite unusual, and everybody brought a different perspective to the table, which made my time worthwhile and challenging. I enjoyed working with people with different backgrounds and having a foot in the lab, in the clinics, in the machine shop, and by the computers and high performance computing clusters!
Tell us about your idea.
Basically we want to create realistic physical objects that can mimic a breast when imaged. These breast models can be used for a myriad of purposes, mainly, quality assurance testing of imaging systems, and performing virtual clinical trials.
How did you come up with your idea? When did you come up with it?
Working on computerized breast models for simulation studies and running similar experiments with uniform or rudimentary plastic models in the clinic made us want to be able to perform our physical tests with the sophistication and realism of our computerized models! We had the computerized models under our belt, why not look into translating them into physical models!
How did you meet your team members?
Greg and I have been working on the computerized models at the lab, Adam was my Pratt fellow mentee at the lab with one of my advisors, and Kyle was introduced to me by a common friend in Med school.
How has the Duke Start-Up Challenge been helpful to you?
The start-up challenge got me think about and work towards goals that would not typically be required of a PhD student. It opened new doors and got me exposed to new resources. I loved preparing material for every round and meeting new people with different backgrounds and expertise.
The Duke Start-Up Challenge provides a lot of feedback from over 100 judges. Can you talk about that experience of reviewing the feedback?
Amazing to see 41 judges commented on our idea summary. It was very encouraging to read the comments coming from people with various perspectives and experience. The judges who offered to help us further have been very helpful and it was amazing how they shared their time and expertise with us.
What advice do you have for Duke students that are thinking of starting a company?
Get yourself connected and use the resources. You will learn much faster and more efficiently through networking than else way. Do not get discouraged easily!
Join us for the Grand Finale with Max Hodak ’12 for the 15th Annual Duke Start-Up Challenge on Friday, September 19th, 2014 at 8:00pm ET at Fuqua’s Geneen Auditorium. RSVP on SquadUp
Not able to attend in person? Watch the livestream on Duke’s YouTube channel.