UIC bioengineer receives Fulbright to study in Finland

Miiri Kotche

Miiri Kotche, UIC clinical associate professor of bioengineering.

A University of Illinois at Chicago bioengineer has received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award to study user-centered product design that intersects technology and health care delivery in Finland.

Miiri Kotche, clinical associate professor of bioengineering, is one of 800 faculty and professionals who will travel abroad during the 2017-2018 academic year through the program, which is the flagship international educational exchange sponsored by the U.S. government.

Beginning in January, Kotche will spend seven months at the Helsinki-based VTT Technical Research Center, the largest multidisciplinary research organization in Northern Europe.

“I want to understand how VTT engineers translate user needs into technical requirements for medical devices by studying their product development process,” Kotche said. “A deeper understanding of how a successful ecosystem of innovation in Finland positively impacts health care product development can help inform our own processes and provide insight into how to create stronger collaborations within and external to UIC.”

Kotche’s industry experience informs her UIC teaching and research, which focuses on preparing future engineers and physicians to incorporate innovation in health care careers.

She directs the Medical Accelerator for Devices Laboratory, or MAD Lab, an interdisciplinary program for engineers, industrial designers, MBA students and medical students that examines early concept generation, market opportunity, and intellectual property considerations.

She also leads Innovation Medicine, a co-curricular program in the UIC College of Medicine that combines technology and health care, and she is director of a clinical immersion internship program that offers engineering and medical students opportunities to conduct needs assessments in clinical settings.

The Fulbright experience will influence her product design courses, as well as future biomedical engineers, she says.

“By broadening my knowledge and experience to include other cultures, I can better prepare our students to meet the demand for ‘global engineers’ who possess the personal qualities and technical skill-set required to work effectively in a range of international settings and work environments,” she said.

Kotche’s previous honors include the 2016 Motivator of the Year award from the Association for Women in Science’s Chicago chapter.

The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program, which was created in 1946 to increase mutual understanding between U.S. citizens and the people of other countries, recognizes academic and professional achievement in addition to record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields.