How Temi Prioleau engineers personalized diabetes management

Former Rice postdoctoral fellow and now Dartmouth professor uses wearable technologies to inform treatment strategies.

Temi Prioleau

Temiloluwa “Temi” Prioleau is an electrical engineer, as is her father, and she credits him with instilling in her an early and sustained interest in mathematics and electronics.

“I admire my Dad quite a lot. When I was in fourth grade I really liked math but I did poorly on a test. My Dad set up time for us to work together regularly on the problems. That effort made a big difference,” said Prioleau, who was a postdoctoral fellow in electrical and computer engineering at Rice and now is an assistant professor of computer science at Dartmouth College.

“I have always had a thing for health and medicine. I even thought about biomedical engineering, but was advised that might be too narrow a specialty. That’s when I started considering electrical engineering with a medical flavor,” said Prioleau, whose family moved to the Dallas area when she was a junior in high school.

While at Rice from 2016 to 2018, Prioleau was mentored by two researchers in electrical and computer engineering: Professor Ashutosh Sabharwal, now department chair, and Ashok Veeraraghavan, associate professor. Together they work in the Scalable Health Labs, which combine Prioleau’s interests in engineering and medicine.

“We are developing mobile, wearable and digital solutions for monitoring and understanding bio-behavioral factors that have an influence on people’s health,” said Prioleau, who was born and raised in Lagos, the capital of Nigeria.

With the aid of a Marathon Oil Co. undergraduate scholarship, Prioleau earned her B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2010, and then worked for a year at the Dow Chemical Co. in Houston before going to graduate school.

Other scholarships and awards – National Science Foundation Research Fellowship, Google United Negro College Fund, Sam Chih Graduate Research Award – helped Prioleau earn her M.S. and Ph.D. from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2014 and 2016, respectively. That was followed by a Rice Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship.

At Rice, Prioleau focused her research on diabetes, and she continues that work as a professor at Dartmouth. Centers of Disease Control statistics show that some 30.3 million people in the U.S. live with the disease. More than double that number are at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Prioleau seeks to use mobile and wearable technologies as a platform for data-driven research focused on monitoring, understanding and improving personalized diabetes management. Her working assumption is that objective digital data from the daily lives of patients can inform treatment strategies to improve health outcomes.

“We perform individual and population studies to create personalized goals for managing diabetes. We make algorithmic predictions of the behavioral markers that have an impact on improved self-management. We look for software solutions to clinical and patient needs in healthcare,” she said.

Prioleau has discovered that she enjoys the combination of research and teaching provided by an academic setting.

“I like working at Dartmouth. I like my students. They work hard. Also, I appreciate the freedom to define and address novel problems of my choosing, using methods and tools from engineering and computer science,” she said.