Catherine Mohr works on integrating new surgical technologies into robots such as the da Vinci.
At the age of 27, Catherine Mohr had her dream job working at AeroVironment, a firm in California that designs and builds the world’s most advanced land and air vehicles. She built electric and hybrid car prototypes but the U.S. car companies were not commercializing the designs, which left her frustrated. She wanted to save the world on a grand scale.
She remembered working briefly with medical device design as a graduate student at MIT. Thinking about how medical devices make a very big difference in individual people’s lives, she observed a test-run of a new appliance. When the test failed, she realized it was because engineers and surgeons were not speaking each others’ languages.
So she decided to go to medical school and joined Intuitive Surgical, which makes the surgical robot the da Vinci. At first she started out studying the forces generated during surgery caused by cutting and suturing. Now she is applying lower-force alternatives to surgery, such as lasers. She is currently the director of medical research and finds her job very rewarding.