By Katie Malatino

After earning dual bachelor’s degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in biomedical engineering and design, innovation, and society in 2022, Sonya Heldman elected to stay at RPI as an MBA candidate in the Lally School of Management with a concentration in life sciences entrepreneurship.

“RPI allowed me to build on my previous experience by offering an MBA program that combined my interest in life sciences and entrepreneurship,” said Heldman. “I’ve always had an interest in medical innovation.”

While still an undergraduate student, Heldman’s team’s biomedical engineering capstone project won the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) and VentureWell prize of $15,000 for their design of a skull fixation device. The device provides flexible structural support to protect the brain after an operation as it swells and subsequently shrinks. Heldman developed the device with her teammates Katrina Bliss, Alexandra Bisaccia, Taylor Keyt, and Grady Habicht.

As a graduate student, Heldman has worked closely with RPI’s Biomedical Engineering Department and the Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship to develop the commercial side of the patent-pending device. Through the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps program, Heldman has also validated a market for the technology. She traveled to several conferences across the country to present and pitch the device, as well as to conduct interviews with neurosurgeons.

Recently, Heldman won the Best of the Best Award in the Severino Center’s Change the World Challenge for the device, which is now called Evidus. Heldman also won the Capital Cup grand prize for the device in the Regional Business Plan Competition of the New York Business Plan Competition.

Along the way, Heldman has found that connecting with RPI alumni has been beneficial. “I’ve found that they are excited to talk to a student and offer advice and any connections or resources they have,” she said.

Following her graduation, Heldman plans to stay in the neurological space. Stay tuned!