Medical Devices by Day, Business Strategies By Night

As a member of the inaugural biomedical engineering undergraduate class entering in the fall of 2002, Mae Sattam was part of a number of firsts for the department.

headshot of Mae Sattam smiling


She was one of the first students to learn from a brand new curriculum at The University of Texas at Austin. She was one of the first members of the student chapter of the Biomedical Engineering Society, which took on volunteer projects on behalf of the department, such as cleaning up Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake). She was involved in the formation of the BME Undergraduate Advisory Board—a student organization that exists today and is responsible for implementing student-led initiatives such as design competitions.

And, she was one of the first students’ whose experience during her senior design project led her to her first job.

As a senior, Mae worked with Professor Tom Milner testing properties of the optical coherence tomography (OCT) catheter. The OCT catheter uses infrared light to generate high resolution images used to diagnose cardiovascular disease. Her senior design experience, combined with two NASA internships, where she researched electrical activity of hearts in microgravity to better diagnose heart attacks, and a healthy dose of networking led her to a full-time position with Milner’s company, CardioSpectra, after graduation.

While with CardioSpectra, Mae continued working on the OCT catheter. The company was later acquired by Volcano Corporation who further distributed the OCT catheter for use in medical facilities such as St. Jude’s Hospital.

After two years, Mae decided to leave Volcano Corporation for OriGen Biomedical, a medical device manufacturer based in Austin. It was also at this time that Mae decided to supplement her biomedical engineering education with an MBA.

By day, Mae continued designing catheters, specifically on OriGen’s ECMO catheter that benefits patients on life support whose blood has lost oxygen by re-oxygenating it. By night, Mae took courses through the McCombs School of Business’s Texas Evening MBA Program at UT. She graduated from that program in May 2012.

“At OriGen, my career has included improving the business side of manufacturing processes, managing costs, and improving efficiencies,” Sattam says, “And my MBA will enable me to continue in the field of product management and be a leader in research and development.”

Mae got what was perhaps her first taste for business during her senior design course. 

She recalls Professor Laura Suggs, who taught the course at that time, discussing the importance of GANTT charts, which are used to define a project’s schedule.

“At the time, I hated GANTT charts,” Mae says, “But now, obviously I understand their importance, and I did enjoy how Professor Suggs, having come from industry before joining UT, was able to relay real-life problems, solutions, and applications in the classroom. She and the other BME professors taught us how to adapt to not only the changes in the classroom and our new department, but also the changes in our fast-growing industry.”

For Mae, an MBA was a natural extension for her BME degree, which she describes as an entrepreneurial field.

“BME is entrepreneurial, or that was the experience I had at UT. I was part of a small close-knit class learning about a relatively new field. That newness fosters an entrepreneurial spirit,” Mae says.