Solomon Mensah

Solomon Mensah

Q&A: Solomon Mensah on Encouraging STEM careers

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering Solomon Mensah answers questions about introducing high school students from underrepresented communities to the biomedical device industry and encouraging them to consider careers in STEM.

How did you get involved with developing medical devices
for emerging economies?

I have always had the passion to give back to the community from where I came (Ghana). My hope is to use my engineering and entrepreneurial expertise to develop life-saving technologies that are easy to use and maintain, and that can be manufactured and purchased at a low cost. While at Northeastern studying for my PhD, I co-founded Therapeutic Innovations, a company dedicated to developing medical interventions for emerging economies without compromising on quality. I had toured neonatal wards in public hospitals in Ghana and saw no bCPAPs, a non-invasive ventilation strategy for newborns with infant respiratory distress syndrome, and no robust clinical protocols to effectively use the few devices they did have. I interviewed medical professionals across the country and conducted market research within many hospitals. The data collected formed the bedrock of what would eventually become Therapeutic Innovations, with a low-cost, easy-to-use bCPAP (called Airbaby) and a clinical capacity-building infrastructure template as the initial products.

Why is it important to offer a summer program to expose high school students to the medical device field?

I received the opportunity to engage in medical devices and innovation at a later stage of my academic career, which resulted in a drastic shift in my interest and research focus. I wondered how impactful it would have been if I’d had this exposure at an earlier stage of my academic career. Our goal is to reach out to high school students in groups underrepresented in the industry to encourage them to consider a STEM education. In 2023, Dirk Albrecht, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and I received funding from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) to create a seven-week summer program for high school students to learn about the medical device industry. Last summer we enrolled seven students—all nominated by their high school science teachers—in this pilot program. Two WPI students, Abigail Holmes and Jack Rothenberg, served as teaching assistants.

What did you learn from the Summer 2023 pilot program?

We learned that students are really in need of programs that would expose them to real-life problems at an early stage of their careers. We also learned that they responded best to Abigail and Jack because they could relate to teachers who are closer to their age. Some subject presentations were not as engaging as we would have liked, so we’re partnering with Worcester Public Schools high school science teachers to tap into their expertise for the 2024 summer program. In a survey we conducted at the end of the pilot program, five of the seven students said they were definitely considering STEM careers, so that’s a great first result.

How are you creating a curriculum to get all high school students, especially those from underrepresented communities, interested in the medical device field to improve global health?

Coming from an underrepresented community myself, I understand the dynamics involved in knowledge transfer from an experiential standpoint. My goal is to leverage these personal experiences to develop a student-centered program that draws from individual student experiences and cultures to help drive innovation. The goal is to start in the Worcester Public Schools, and then approach other cities across the state that might be interested in adopting the curriculum as well.

What’s the next step in advancing your vision?

Thanks to MLSC and the BME Department, we hope to continue the existing collaboration and to secure further funding for program implementation. Our goal is to enroll 20 students in this summer’s program, using what we learn to continue to improve the school-year curriculum so we can reach even more students in diverse communities and expose them to this exciting industry.

Reader Comments


  1. A
    Asha Tamako

    Brilliant innovation. It will go a long way to help newborns with respiratory problems especially in countries like Ghana.
    These innovations will definitely encourage STEM careers.

  2. E
    Elizabeth Wordui

    Excellent initiative! This will significantly contribute to safeguarding the lives of newborns in the long run. Kudos!

  3. T
    Tilly Amagyei

    Great work! 20 children will definitely benefit from such an amazing program. More grease to your Elbow!!👍

  4. M

    Shine, bright light to the underrepresented, it’s not lack of knowledge sometimes, it’s the lack of access and exposure. Great program professor. Keep up the great work!!

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