Rice Student Shakes Up Healthcare

Emi Sato Rocks Women’s History Month with Engineering Goals

Emi Sato

It’s no easy feat to combine a passion for tech innovation with an unwavering commitment to making a difference in the world. Still, Emi Sato, a second year Ph.D. student in Rice University’s Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) program, has done just that – and more. She is breaking down barriers and making a name for herself in the STEM field.

At a private hospital where she worked, Sato discovered the importance of data analysis within the healthcare industry and sought out opportunities to further her education. 

After getting my bachelors from Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico City, I worked for a private hospital and a contract research organization as a project assistant in the data management department,” said Sato. “During this time, I realized the importance of understanding data, so I sought out graduate programs where I could learn more and conduct research.”

But for Sato, the path to finding her place as an engineer took a little bit of time and trial and error. 

“I actually considered becoming an engineer a little later than most. Although I've always liked creative work, I also had an interest in sciences and healthcare,” said Sato. “I eventually decided on architecture because my mother and sister are architects, and I believed it was a great blend of creative work and math. However, after one-and-a-half years, I realized that I missed biological sciences and switched to biomedical engineering.”

Despite starting out focused on computer science programs, she soon found her passion in the Scalable Health Lab of Rice University – a place where she could learn about data science while also exploring the healthcare field. 

For two years, Sato has conducted research on data analysis from clinical trials for those with type 2 diabetes). Specifically, her work has focused on clinical trials of underserved Hispanic adults living with type 2 diabetes. In collaboration with the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute, her work involves analyzing continuous glucose monitoring, or CGM, data to find insights into glycemic regulation.

These findings can have profound impacts on the lives of participants and the Hispanic population, which is what motivates her most.

Since we work with real-patient data, our research has a direct impact on the participants as well as the Hispanic/Latino population, which is what I find most rewarding,” said Sato. “My goal is to work on projects and initiatives that make healthcare accessible to everyone.

Through her work, every insight gained carries with it a potential for transformation - and not just for patients, but also for medical professionals and researchers who can take these results to understand and improve treatments. 

This Women’s History Month, we honor Emi Sato’s determination to use technology to help others. In doing so, she exemplifies what is possible when diverse voices, perspectives, and ideas come together in pursuit of a shared goal.

Story by contributing writer Kaitlyn Evener