Michael Hemati

Michael Hemati wears a lot of different proverbial hats—engineer, entrepreneur, inventor, and innovator.

After graduating from UT Austin in 2013, he earned a master’s degree in Translational Medicine from UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco. He pursued that degree because he realized he wanted to build things quickly and get them into patient hands rather than be in a slower-paced research environment. Now, he lives in San Francisco and is an R&D Engineer for medical device developer TheraNova.

Hemati knew he wanted to be an engineer at a young age. His dad and brother are both engineers and his dad taught him how to fix things around the house, which ignited in him a passion for building and designing. He was drawn to biomedical engineering, though, when his grandmother was diagnosed with cancer and he learned about the novel treatments happening at Stanford, where she was treated. Biomedical engineering was a newer field, but he was interested in its combination of design, engineering and medicine.

“Knowing I could have an impact on people’s lives was exciting to me,” he says.

While at UT Austin, Hemati began his work as both an engineer, researcher, and entrepreneur. In the classroom he worked with graduate students Alfred Song and Shams Kazmi in Dr. Kenneth Diller’s and Dr. Andy Dunn’s labs doing oncology, cell-culturing, and two-photon imaging. But he also had the opportunity to attempt a startup, designing a new type of knee brace along with another student, Chet Murthy, and Dr. Larry Kravitz from Austin Regional Clinic. They developed prototypes and mentored high school students interested in robotics. That project made it through research and early-stage product development and the three still communicate.

After graduating with his master’s degree, he cofounded the company SmartDerm, which was developed through his capstone project. The SmartDerm team developed a real-time pressure ulcer monitoring system, combining a wireless pressure-sensitive wound dressing that monitors pressure profiles over time and machine learning algorithms to develop a pressure ulcer risk score. SmartDerm is currently still in development and he serves as an advisor, but Hemati has been working with TheraNova for a little over a year.

TheraNova is a medical device incubator and a hub for medical technology. Hemati doesn’t have a typical day – sometimes he is doing engineering work, other times he is interviewing physicians or doing business pitches to raise capital. He says it’s necessary to be versatile in today’s engineering climate.

“I describe myself as an entrepreneurial engineer who can bridge all aspects of medical technology development,” he says.

Hemati is invigorated by living in the Bay Area.

“You could be in a Starbucks and find yourself talking to someone who runs a Fortune 500 company. On the other hand, breakfast tacos don’t exist. I’ve given serious thought to opening a breakfast taco truck.”

Hemati says his time at UT Austin helped prepare him to work in San Francisco. He credits the collaborative environment and the University’s real-world experiences with helping prime him for work outside the classroom. He suggests that other students capitalize on UT Austin’s opportunities as well.

“My advice is to start early, don’t feel like you’re inexperienced and don’t be afraid to take risks,” he says. “Take opportunities to learn and observe, surround yourself with smart people and take in as much as you can.”