2024 Investiture Information

Training Program in Surgical Innovation

The Training Program in Surgical Innovation (TPSI) is the first discipline-specific track within the PhD Innovation Program and offers students additional opportunities at Dartmouth Health's Center for Surgical Innovation (CSI).


TPSI offers a unique research environment and optimal scale for preparing trainees for careers in original surgical technology research with an emphasis on innovations aimed at improving the safety and outcomes of surgical procedures. At CSI, students have access to experienced clinician-scientists and operating rooms equipped with intraoperative advanced three-dimensional imaging capability.

The Program brings an organized, systematic approach to addressing unsolved problems in surgery, rather than leave them to chance or trial-and-error.

Leadership & Mentors

The program provides faculty mentors in biomedical engineering, surgical translation, and innovation and entrepreneurship. Each trainee is assigned three mentors—one from each area of expertise—for guidance through the program.

The Center for Surgical Innovation (CSI)

Guided by Professor Paulsen as Scientific Director and Dr. Mirza as Medical Director, CSI is a 12,000-sq-feet facility with surgical, imaging and laboratory space designed for conducting research. CSI houses twin ORs with adjacent diagnostic and interventional rooms that share 3T MRI and 64-slice CT scanners which move into the ORs during surgical procedures. The diagnostic rooms also allow imaging studies to occur immediately prior to surgery. The larger OR also has robotic angiography, and the surgical table rotates 270 degrees, allowing MR, CT, and fluoroscopy to occur during the same case.


TPSI students work directly with experienced entrepreneurs to recognize opportunities for innovation in surgery driven by compassionate and careful evaluation of unmet patient needs and rigorous analysis of suboptimal patient outcomes, rather than simply by market opportunities. TPSI provides trainees with the skills and training necessary to pursue careers in biomedical engineering innovation and entrepreneurship in industry as well as academia.


Outside Dartmouth's engineering school, significant interactions occur with the Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth-Hitchcock's Departments of Surgery, Orthopaedics, Family Medicine, and The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, as well as the Tuck School of Business through its Health Care Initiative and Center for Private Equity and Entrepreneurship.

Students can also benefit from several NIH-funded research programs such as at the Dartmouth Clinical and Translational Science Institute (SYNERGY).


Trainees either challenge and advance the current understanding in an area of biomedical engineering or define a new initiative with the endorsement of participating faculty.

TPSI Graduates:

  • Are prepared to engage in original research at the level expected of a post-doctoral fellow in biomedical engineering;
  • Are exposed to multiple surgical procedures and specialties similar to a medical student participating in surgical rotations;
  • Gain understanding of business entrepreneurship comparable to an MBA student interested in the biomedical industry.

Timeline & Funding

Completion of the Program will take approximately 4–5 years with various sources of financial support.

Year 1

  • Funding from Thayer
  • Basic coursework
  • Surgical rotations class completed

Year 2

  • Funding from TPSI
  • Limited coursework
  • Mentoring Committee formed
  • Qualifying exams completed
  • Thesis topic identified
  • Research begins

Year 3

  • Research continues

Year 4/5

  • Research continues
  • Innovation Program internship defined
  • Support usually provided by faculty grants or institutional funds during the Innovation Program internship

Program Requirements

Participants must satisfy all requirements of the PhD Innovation Program—technical proficiency, technical breadth, specialization, professional competence, original research and innovation skills development—plus TPSI-specific training tailored to the surgical setting, including a surgical innovation internship. (A new surgical rotation course is also in development.)

Surgical Innovation Rotation and Training

As part of the requirements for TPSI, students engage in immersive learning in a variety of medical and surgical settings, over the course of three 10-week terms—for a full academic year—through the ENGG 325: Introduction to Surgical Innovation course. The rotation and training experience is aimed at providing students the opportunity to observe, understand, and identify opportunities for innovation that can lead to improved patient outcomes or surgical procedures.

Fall term: general surgery rotation. TPSI students work alongside third-year medical students and surgical residents, and participate in rounds, medical student case discussions, and observe at least one surgical procedure and one outpatient clinic patient encounter with a proctor or an assigned surgeon colleague.

Winter term: surgical subspecialty of the student's choice. Some examples are minimally invasive general surgery, oncologic surgery, otolaryngology, anesthesiology, neurosurgery or orthopedic surgery.

Spring term: surgical research rotation. Students select a clinical mentor and an engineering mentor to guide development of a research proposal. The research rotation focuses on medical research methods, including design of clinical trials, evaluation of benefits and harms, and standards for surgical materials, device performance, and implant bioeffects.

Residency Requirements and Program Duration

Students in the PhD Innovation: TPSI students are expected to spend at least nine terms in residence, three of which will take place after successfully completing the oral qualifying examination. Students who are registered and enrolled in two or more courses pera term are considered full-time and as being “in residence.” Students typically take up to five years to complete the requirements for the PhD Innovation: TPSI.


Trainees are selected from applicants to Dartmouth's PhD Innovation Program expressing interest in TPSI.


  • Applicants must meet all prerequisites and requirements for the regular PhD degree program.
  • Applicants must show evidence of participation in multi-disciplinary and/or non-traditional learning opportunities.
  • Applicants must show demonstration of creativity and/or motivation and passion for translational research, innovation and entrepreneurship through extra-curricular activities.
  • Trainees are selected from applicants to Dartmouth’s PhD Innovation Program who have specifically expressed an interest in TPSI.

Current PhD Students

Current Dartmouth engineering PhD students may also apply to TPSI during their first or second year of the regular PhD program. These students are advised to consult with their advisor, Professor Keith Paulsen, and Professor Eric Fossum prior to applying.