Infinite Careers is a collaboration between Career Services (CAPD) and the MIT Alumni Association to explore career paths and the non-linearity of career decision making. Read profiles of alumni with unique career paths, hear their stories and network at a series of talks.
- Swarthmore College, Biology and Mathematics. 1998
- MIT, Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Ph.D. 1994
- MIT, Aeronautics and Astronautics, M.S. 1995
Dr. Corinna Lathan is the author of the best-selling book Inventing the Future, Stories from a Techno-Optimist, which tells the story of her 20 year journey as an inventor, engineer, and tech entrepreneur. She is the founder and former CEO of AnthroTronix, Inc., a biomedical engineering research and development company. Her work developing robotic technology for children with disabilities has been featured in Forbes, Time, and the New Yorker magazines as well as led to such distinctions as Maryland’s “Top Innovator of the Year,” and one of MIT Technology Review Magazine’s “Top 100 World Innovators.” She has also been named a Technology Pioneer and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. Prior to founding AnthroTronix, Dr. Lathan was an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at The Catholic University of America and an Adjunct Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Dr. Lathan currently serves as an Independent Director of both PTC, Inc., a global technology provider of Internet of Things and Augmented Reality platforms, and Ekso Bionics, a pioneer in the field of robotic exoskeletons. She is also a Board Member for the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, an independent, non-profit organization, dedicated to accelerating global efforts to reduce deaths and harm from smoking.
Dr. Lathan is actively involved in educational outreach programs that empower women and minorities in engineering and science and serves on the board of several not-for-profit organizations including the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation, Engineering World Health, and the KID-Museum.
Dr. Lathan received her B.A. in Biopsychology and Mathematics from Swarthmore College, and an M.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics and Ph.D. in Neuroscience from MIT.
What influenced your choice of undergraduate major? How has it shaped your career choices and professional ability?
My undergraduate major is somewhat unique in that Swarthmore allowed us to make up a Special Major. I combined biology, psychology, and mathematics. This multi-disciplinary approach has continued on as evidenced by the fact that in grad school at MIT I was a student in the interdisciplinary Center for Space Research. At the Center, I was working toward my PhD in Neuroscience but because my work included a lot of engineering skills I ended up enrolling in Aero/Astro for the master’s degree.
What motivates you to do the work that you do?
I believe that technology can make the world a better place and all of my projects have worked toward this goal. I actually have a techno-optimist manifesto!
1. Technology should make us stronger, healthier, and happier.
2. Technology should enable us to to do things we couldn’t do without technology.
3. Technology should create an equitable future.
What professional development experiences or opportunities shaped your early career?
When I finished graduate school, I thought I wanted to stay in academia and be a professor. I started on that journey and realized that I didn’t want my research to stay in the lab at a university, I wanted to turn my work into products. So I took a leave of absense to start a company and loved it. I ended up leaving academic and running my own company for over 20 years until I recently sold it. I wrote a book about it – “Inventing the Future, Stories from a Techno-Optimist” and have been speaking to many students and young professionals about my journey.
What career advice do you have for current MIT students, or those interested in entering your industry?
Find cool projects to do with cool people. And if you have to choose between the two, choose the people, the opportunities will follow.
What do you like to do outside of work for fun/relaxation/inspiration?
I learned to play the Ukulele during the COVID quarantine. I’ve never really played an instrument and I realized it makes my brain work in a totally different way. Learning something new is a great way to keep your brain healthy! So my current new skill I’m developing is Pickleball!
Do you participate in any volunteer/community service activities? If so, how do you balance your professional and personal responsibilities?
Community service and volunteering has always been an integral part of my personal and professional lives. I’m passionate about STEM outreach so I’ve coached my kids robotics teams for many years. I brought these values to my company, which I ran for 20 years and this manifested in several ways – we had a strong internship program, we sponsored the local maker faire, and we supported several robotics teams as well. Balance is something we each personally need to figure out as it applies within and across all facets of our lives and is always in flux.