Efraín Torres, PhD, a first-generation Mexican-American innovator, found his way to the University of Minnesota driven by a strong desire to address community issues. Growing up in Chicago's South Side, Torres is a first generation high school, college, and recent graduate earning his PhD in biomedical engineering (BME).
Torres chose the University of Minnesota to complete his PhD because of its expertise in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) development. He is focused on pursuing engineering research that can make a difference, which is why his PhD work is on making MRI technology more affordable, and thus more accessible to all, an area he first grew passionate about during his undergraduate studies at Marquette University.
“If you want to do a startup, your research has to have a clear impact on the lives of people. When it comes to research, you have to be mindful of that,” said Torres, “When it comes to technology commercialization, you have to get your things properly protected for IP [intellectual property].” Alongside his research on MRI technology, Torres has engaged with the Tech Comm office to protect his intellectual property and explore commercialization opportunities, including helping him to launch a startup company, Adialante, which offers affordable, silent, and compact MRI systems. In addition, Tech Comm has helped connect him with entrepreneurship mentors through the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship, which awarded him the Student Entrepreneur of the Year award in May.
Earlier this year, Torres and his team also participated in the National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps) and they have recently been awarded funding from America’s Seed Fund powered by the NSF. Currently, he and his team are in the midst of raising a round of financing to further develop their affordable MRI technology.
Torres acknowledges the challenges he faced as a minority in STEM and as an aspiring entrepreneur. However, he believes that embracing these obstacles and using his unique experiences has prepared him for the startup journey. Torres advises other aspiring entrepreneurs to go outside their comfort zone. “Definitely get involved in the variety of Tech Comm’s networking and/or workshops, especially the Holmes Center of Entrepreneurship,” said Torres, “Doing these things can be inherently uncomfortable, but they are not something people get to skip over if they want to be an entrepreneur."
Efrain Torres's journey at the University of Minnesota showcases his commitment to community-driven innovation and his determination to overcome challenges. Through the support of Tech Comm and his own experiences as a minority entrepreneur, he is paving the way for future researchers interested in entrepreneurship. With his focus on making MRI technology more affordable and accessible, Torres' work holds promise for healthcare and underserved communities.
Visit University Inventors to learn more about working with the Tech Comm office and find the commercialization resources to help you increase your own research impact.