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Sanchali Deb could have gone to any university she wanted for her doctoral work. Her academic performance in India at Jadavpur University and Siliguri Institute of Technology was stellar. Her work in control systems was exceptional.
She was considering the Ph.D. program at Texas A&M University, but something was missing. She had an unmet passion for helping people. Deb made a phone call to UT Arlington electrical engineering Professor J.C. Chiao, who works on medical devices with a range of health benefits.
“I told Dr. Chiao that I had no experience but was thinking about doing my Ph.D. work at UT Arlington and wanted to go into what he was doing,” Deb says. “His team is multidisciplinary, and he welcomed me.”
The decision led her to develop a miniature gastrostimulator for which she is seeking a patent. It helps cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy and severely distressed diabetic patients with gastroparesis restore stomach motility so they can digest food.
In a 30-minute outpatient procedure, a doctor inserts the device through the throat and esophagus using an endoscope and attaches it to the inside of the stomach. A small controller outside the body wirelessly activates the implant to produce weak electrical impulses that stimulate the stomach tissues to digest food.
“When I saw our devices help the stomach move properly, I was so excited and had a warm feeling in my heart,” Deb says. “The doctors in the surgery room were also thrilled. They started making phone calls, asking their colleagues to come in and see.”
The clinical trials are the beginning of what Deb hopes will lead to a widely used product. “It would be very rewarding to design something that would benefit people who wouldn’t survive without it.”