Syamantak Payra

2022 Hertz Fellow
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Syamantak Payra is a scientist and engineer who is passionate about creating new biomedical devices that can help provide physiological assistance, facilitate the diagnosis of illnesses and accelerate rehabilitation of the human body.

A senior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Payra uses his expertise in electrical engineering and computer science to develop new technologies with human impact. He has created digital fibers for electronic garments that can assist in diagnosing illnesses, and he contributed to next-generation space suit prototypes that could better protect astronauts on spacewalks. Payra’s research spans rehabilitation robotics, cancer diagnostics and biomedical sensor systems, and has resulted in publications across multiple domains, with additional interdisciplinary work in fields like materials science, microbiology and public policy. He will begin his PhD at Stanford University in fall 2022.

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Payra grew up in Friendswood, Texas, minutes away from NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Motivated by health challenges faced by family and loved ones—including watching his grandmother’s struggles with asthma/chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and losing his baby brother to brain cancer — Payra dedicated himself to applying engineering to solve unmet health care needs. When he was 14, a conversation with a teacher paralyzed from post-polio syndrome inspired him to design a robotic leg brace that won the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair—a recognition given to the top two projects in the entire competition. Payra earned ninth place at the Regeneron Science Talent Search, and he was inducted into the National Gallery of America’s Young Inventors.

A fan of vehicles and linguistics, Payra is also a violinist and published poet, and he will be graduating Phi Beta Kappa from MIT with minors in public policy and entrepreneurship. He enjoys music and nature photography as creative outlets.

"I want to create technologies that can help assess, address and overcome physiological limitations and ultimately improve quality of life."
– Syamantak Payra

Graduate Studies

Stanford University
Engineering