Francesca Riccio-Ackerman

Research Assistant
  • Biomechatronics

Francesca is working to improve the future of healthcare for people with disabilities globally—from the U.S. to Sierra Leone— by strengthening prosthetic and orthotic sectors through innovation in policy, economics, engineering and design.

Working in the Biomechatronics Group in the MIT Media Lab and the K. Lisa Yang Center for Bionics, she designs tools  and programs that improve access to and translation of assistive technologies. Her work is summarized by key terms: health equity, global health system strengthening and technology translation.

Through the Yang Center for Bionics, Francesca is working in Sierra Leone to build capacity, multiply the production of assistive technologies and strengthen the country’s prosthetic and orthotic sector, designed with and for Sierra Leoneans with disabilities.

She travels often to conduct fieldwork and learn from patients' experiences-- visiting communities globally from prosthetic clinics in Jordan, to indigenous tribes in remote areas of Mexico, to rural parts of Sierra Leone, West Africa, and back home in historical Black neighborhoods across the South.

Maintaining a global perspective in all endeavors, Francesca tailors her approach to the needs of each country using a spectrum of methods: tangible - including mobile clinics to extend medical services to rural patients, experimental - utilizing psychoprosthetic tools documenting patient experiences, and analytic - implementing health economic metrics to capture patients’ unmet financial burdens.

Prior to pursuing her PhD at MIT, Francesca was educated in biomedical engineering and worked as a researcher in the Adaptive Neural Systems Laboratory at Florida International University, contributing to the development of advanced prosthetic arms. 

She then completed her Master’s Degree at SDA Bocconi in Milan studying Health Economics and Policy, specializing in global health development for access and health technology translation.

After, she was hired as a Research Specialist in the MIT Media Lab, where she worked to document communities  who were medically neglected in prosthetic care and, together with her mentor Dr. Hugh Herr, envisioned ways to improve care for people with disabilities around the world.