From BME to Ophthalmology



Lena Dixit graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with her BS in biomedical engineering (BME) in 2007 and went on to pursue medical school. Upon graduating from the Baylor College of Medicine in May 2011, she’s been working long hours as a resident physician in ophthalmology.

Her residency has brought her back to Austin, where she’s had the opportunity to reconnect with the department. Lena recently completed a two-week rotation with Dr. Grady Rylander, a professor in the BME Department and an ophthalmologist with his own practice.

“I remember Dr. Rylander’s lectures in Quantitative Physiology as an undergrad. He always used medical terminology in his instruction,” says Dixit, who, at the time, did not plan on going to medical school.

Her decision to pursue medical school came after she participated in an engineering internship at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. There, Lena was exposed to medical students and seminars, and she began thinking about how to apply engineering to medicine.

Today, as a resident, she’s using her BME background to conduct a research project about the application of fibrin adhesives in ophthalmologic surgeries.

“Although I chose to become a doctor, I can see myself working with researchers in the future, and I’d love to focus on device design within ophthalmology,” says Dixit.

She picked ophthalmology because it fit well with her engineering background.

“Ophthalmologists apply the principles of optics, light, mechanics, and imaging to medically and surgically restore vision to patients.“ Dixit says.

Some of Lena’s favorite experiences as an undergraduate at UT involved conducting research with Professor Krish Roy, taking a memorable course from Professor Ken Diller, and working with a team on her senior design project.

“I worked for two years in Dr. Roy’s lab on projects regarding stem cell differentiation. We used a variety of biomaterials to stimulate differentiation of stem cells into T-cells.  Our goal was to create a reservoir of immunologic cells that could be used for therapeutic purposes,” she says. 

Professor Ken Diller’s Transport Phenomena course was another experience she remembers fondly.

“Dr. Diller used real life scenarios from forensic and court cases, and challenged us to use engineering concepts to solve the mysteries,” she says.

Lena also recalls her senior design course as one of her favorite opportunities as a student. Her team designed a prosthetic ankle joint, specifically marketed for amputee patients in Central America.

“We actually traveled to Honduras and worked with local amputees and prosthetists to make sure our prototype would work,” she says.

Lena’s time at Texas prepared her for medical school and the career she is about to embark on as an ophthalmologist. 

“Because there was such a huge emphasis on physiology, tissues, and the body in BME, the concepts in medical school were not as difficult as they could have been,” Dixit says. “Working in the department and conducting research as an undergraduate definitely prepared me to become a better researcher and physician.”