VISE summer fellowship program supports nine outstanding undergraduates in 2018
Nine students worked with VISE faculty and graduate students over the summer on research projects that ranged from cochlear implantation and modeling to vessel phantom creation and imaging, ultrasound beamforming and deep whole brain segmentation.
They took part in the Vanderbilt Institute for Surgery and Engineering’s 2018 Summer Fellows program, which gives undergraduates hands-on experience in laboratory settings and provides financial support.
The 10-week program included Vanderbilt students majoring in electrical engineering and computer science, biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering as well as a few students from other universities.
Michael I. Miga, director of the Biomedical Modeling Lab (BML) welcomed three students; Chet Friday, Christian Pavas and Derek Doss.
Friday, a biomedical engineering major, developed and tested types of phantoms for image-guided liver validation technologies.
“My biggest takeaway from the summer was developing an appreciation for the entire research process, from the fulfilling, productive, and successful moments, to the stretches of time where successes were more elusive,” he said.
The summer fellowship enabled Pavas, a computer science major from Tennessee State University, to learn technical skills that he said will set him apart from other applicants when it is time to apply for jobs.
He developed a website that allows user to send and receive data to create and improve image-guided liver surgery.
Doss, a biomedical engineering major, worked with Miga and collaborator Dr. Filip Banovac, Chief, Interventional Radiology and Associate Professor of Radiology, to develop a novel method to guide biopsy and personalize chemotherapy treatment.
“While the summer was busy, I discovered my passion for research—even the frustrating days when no progress is made,” Doss said. “I learned how satisfying it can be to use engineering methods to make great strides in healthcare.”
Ghassan Alduraibi, an electrical engineering major, worked under the direction of Jack Noble, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, in the Biomedical Image Analysis for Image Guided Interventions (BAGL) Lab. His research is designed to help audiologists who program cochlear implants by providing auditory nerve locations so they can improve processor parameters and optimize hearing performance.
The summer experience reinforced his decision about continuing to graduate school and, more importantly, Alduraibi said, helped him solidify a research path in medical image analysis.
“I believe it has also really helped prepare me for graduate school next year and any future research projects,” he said.
Kevin Derby joined Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering Kenny Tao in his Diagnostic Imaging and Image-Guided Interventions (DIIGI) Lab. Derby designed a new optical coherence tomography microscope for improved resolution and field of view, demonstrating a novel method for quantitative visualization of lung microvasculature.
Research rarely goes exactly as planned and unforeseen challenges require methodology changes, he said.
“I should expect to be flexible in my methods and to not focus too much on the end goal,” Derby said. “Smaller steps need to first be taken to solve the problem in front of you to move on with your research as a whole.”
Deandra Peoples, a TSU electrical engineering major, worked in the Biophotonics Lab under the direction of Dr. Anita Mahadevan-Jensen using Raman spetcroscopy as a forensic tool to determine the age of bloodstains. If made portable, the tool could be used at future crime scenes.
Peoples also graphed and analyzed data using programming languages she had not known before, discovering she enjoyed problem solving with coding.
Narendran Narasimhan, a mechanical engineering major from Duke University, joined Professor of Mechanical Engineering Robert Webster in the Medical Engineering and Discovery Lab (MED Lab). Narasimhan worked with Katy Riojas, a PhD student and VISE affiliate, to prototype an insertion tool the last step in a minimally invasive, image-guided cochlear implant surgery. The tool was developed by the MED Lab in collaboration with the Computer Assisted Otologic Surgery (CAOS) Lab.
“I thoroughly enjoyed learning about medical robotics, and feel that this summer has allowed me to learn about graduate school life, advanced research, and the tangible impact that the research can have, Narasimhan said. “The program has reinforced my decision to attend graduate school, and I hope to apply all that I have learned in the future.”
Davis Crews, a biomedical engineering major, participated in the Biomedical Elasticity and Acoustic Measurement (BEAM) Lab with Brett Byram, assistant professor of biomedical engineering.
While he learned a lot about regression modeling and ultrasound imaging, Crews said his most valuable lesson was understanding the full research process.
Computer science major Yunxi Xiong spent the summer in the Medical-image Analysis and Statistical Interpretation (MASI) Lab with Bennett Landman, associate professor of electrical engineering.
Xiong researched a new brain segmentation method known as SLANT (Spatially Localized Atlas Network Tiles) to evaluate its reproducibility across different MRI protocols. The work resulted in the first author publication of his first paper.
“I understand the general process to write an academic paper through this summer research project so that I will be much more experienced to collect data, perform experiments, and write documentations in my future research,” Xiong said.
The program concluded with a VISE seminar during which fellows shared their research and conclusions with the engineering school, medical center and university community.