Life Sciences & HealthcareFebruary 19, 2024

Meet the engineer reshaping how patients and physicians view the human body

From dreams of space exploration to simulating the living eye, read Elahe Javadi’s story.
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Born to two educators in Iran, Elahe Javadi always wanted to be successful and make her parents proud. As a girl she thought she’d do that by becoming an astronaut, dreaming of space exploration, the feeling of zero gravity, and views of the Earth from above.

“I wanted to be the next Anousheh Ansari,” Javadi said. “She was the first female private space explorer and the first female Iranian astronaut. She accomplished so much, and that’s what I wanted to do, too.”

Javadi spent her undergraduate and master’s career studying Aerospace engineering to make those fantasies a reality. However, when she was accepted at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, to obtain her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, Javadi realized her dreams of space exploration fit into a larger vision: to help advance human lives. Six years later, Javadi is doing just that—and still making her parents proud, too.

Solving complex problems with virtual twins

Javadi is not an astronaut, although she still deeply loves space exploration (just ask her about her feelings on the 2014 box-office-hit Interstellar). In fact, doing an internship at Boston Children’s Hospital changed the trajectory of her career.

Exposure to the modeling of single-ventricle heart disease through the Living Heart Project, a collaborative research project, at Boston Children’s Hospital introduced Javadi to the medical applications of her engineering degrees. Under supervision from some of the world’s leading doctors, Javadi worked as an intern on a team building a model to help doctors improve surgical planning and treat this disease. Despite her engineering background, Javadi wasn’t deterred; instead, she wanted to take a new opportunity that would open doors for her into the medical realm she had yet to explore.

Although Javadi didn’t actively seek roles in life sciences, her abilities spoke volumes. Her colleagues recognized her potential, steering her toward projects she hadn’t envisaged but excelled in. It is with her relentless dedication to science that Javadi hopes to make a lasting impact on the world.

“We need to embrace discomfort,” Javadi said. “If we don’t do that, how can we pursue self-discovery? How can we make a lasting change?”

Javadi is currently a modeling and simulation consultant here at Dassault Systèmes, where she uses her expertise in fluid dynamics—specifically the study of blood flow—to solve complex problems, optimize processes and help some of the world’s leading businesses make informed decisions. Javadi has simulated many things, from structures to fluids.

Visualizing the eye

Now, however, Javadi is working to build scientifically accurate, three-dimensional virtual twins of the human eye. This groundbreaking tool will help humans get more precise diagnoses and efficient treatments while allowing industry experts, researchers, and even patients to visualize, test, understand, and predict what cannot be seen.

Her latest project, creating a virtual twin of the human eye, is doing just that.

After expressing to her manager that she wanted to spend more time on life sciences projects, Javadi was able to sit in on a meeting with Doctor Joseph F. Rizzo, the director of the neuro-ophthalmology service at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Mass General Brigham Hospital, where she learned about the Living Eye Project for the first time. Although she was supposed to be a silent participant and listen to Dr. Rizzo’s presentation, Javadi asked some critical questions that ultimately landed her on the project.

“My curiosity got the best of me,” Javadi said. “With my previous simulation experience, I was very interested in their plans.”

Dr. Rizzo, his team, and Dassault Systèmes are building an eye with virtual twin technology to model how eye diseases progress, how different treatments might affect the eye, and even simulate surgical procedures, Javadi explained.

This level of detail and accurate processes provide valuable invaluable insights for medical researchers to diagnose and treat diseases too,” Javadi said. “Once complete, there’s no limit to what we can simulate with the eye.”

Simulating a better future

Javadi believes virtual twins revolutionize our perception and understanding of the human body and the broader medical field. For her and her fellow researchers, this technology allows them to visualize and analyze biological processes and structures that were previously impossible unless done under dissection—expanding beyond the limits of previous capabilities. With the model, Javadi and her team can watch biological processes of the eye in simulated real-time such as the function of the eye and how one’s vision may deteriorate.

“Modeling and simulation are helping to not only get insights on something that cannot be measured, but it’s also going to help to accelerate the process of innovation,” Javadi said. “This technology will provide a more comprehensive understanding of human physiology and pathology. This will absolutely change the way we view ourselves and the world around us.”

It’s a fitting sentiment from Javadi. In some ways, this technology has changed the way she views herself.

Javadi’s journey to 3D models and virtual twins is a tale of embracing the unexpected, turning each moment and each discovery into an opportunity for progress. She’s no astronaut, but she is excelling at her primary goal: making her parents proud.

Elahe Javadi isn’t the only one helping reshape the world of engineering. Check out some of the other humans driving progress.

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