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VISE Summer Fellowship provides hands-on lab experience to seven outstanding undergrads

Posted by on Wednesday, October 2, 2019 in News.

Seven talented undergraduates spent 10 weeks over the summer working on research projects in areas that included endoscopic devices for gastroenterology uses, cochlear implant surgery, and brain, ultrasound and retinal imaging.

The 2019 Vanderbilt Institute for Surgery and Engineering (VISE) Summer Fellowship Program provided students with hands-on experience in laboratory settings, and they worked alongside faculty members and graduate students.

In the Neuroimaging and Brain Dynamics Lab, Nafis Ahmed, a computer engineering major, said he learned much about brain imaging and data analysis techniques from EECS Assistant Professor Catie Chang. Meaningful connections developed with lab mates and other experts in the field also elevated the experience, he said.

“Their continuous support encouraged me to keep on asking questions and look for answers,” Ahmed said. “As someone who’s highly interested in neuroscience and engineering, this summer program has been nothing short of an amazing experience for me.”

Alice Ding, a biomedical engineering major, worked in BME Professor Michael Miga’s Biomedical Modeling Laboratory on project to improve liver cancer surgery.

“What I enjoyed most were the meaningful interactions and the relationships that I’ve developed with my lab members as well as the satisfaction of learning something new and getting to apply it to my project,” she said.

Emily Tran worked in Professor Robert Webster’s Medical Engineering and Discovery Lab and Dr. Robert Labadie’s Computer-Assisted Otologic Surgery Lab. The mechanical engineering major worked alongside graduate student Katy Riojas on continued development of a tool used to insert electrode arrays during cochlear implant surgeries.

Tran, a student at The University of Tulsa, said this summer illustrated the true importance of research and solidified her career plans to continue in medical and surgical device research.

“My 10 weeks allowed me to learn new skills and understand the thinking behind research, all while having fun and enjoying the beautiful Vanderbilt campus and city of Nashville!”

Kevin Derby returned to the Diagnostic Imaging and Image-Guided Interventions Lab for the second summer. As in 2018, Derby worked under the direction of Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering Kenny Tao to enhance visualization during ophthalmic surgery.

Derby learned, as all researchers do, that projects often do not unfold as planned. But the process involved more learning, the ability to troubleshoot and solve problems and ultimately gave him a much greater understanding of optics and alignment.

“This will undoubtedly benefit me in the future where I hope to work more with optics and its applications in biomedical engineering,” he said.

Viet Than spent his summer in the Medical Image Computing Laboratory. Than worked with Ipek Oguz, assistant professor of computer science, to improve 3D images of blood vessels in the retina to produce better quality pictures for clinical use.

The experience improved his research, reading, analysis and pure computer science skills, Than said.

“But what I truly treasure,” he said “would be this feeling of being able to work on the same problem with other people, struggling together to find solutions.”

Assistant professor Brett Byram Lab welcomed biomedical and electrical engineering major, Hayden Grobleben, to the Biomedical Elasticity and Acoustic Measurement Lab. Grobleben spent the summer improving the quality of transcranial ultrasound images.

“I have enjoyed being able to learn about a specific field of biomedical engineering as well as seeing the problem-solving process used in engineering,” he said. “My favorite part of being in the lab was getting to interact with the grad students and see what they do on a daily basis.”

Saint Louis University undergrad Claire Landewee joined the Science and Technology of Robots in Medicine Lab. Landewee worked on two endoscopic devices used in diagnostic gastroenterology screenings. She also contributed to a manuscript to a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Key takeaways, she said, were learning skills in device development and 3D modeling and printing. She also appreciated how the VISE space supports collaboration because the lack of physical separation between engineering and medical fields allows abundant innovation.

Landewee credited Keith Obstein, MD, associate professor of medicine and graduate student Federico Campisano as great mentors.

“They taught me numerous technical and professional skills throughout the process of device development,” she said. “More importantly, they were open to sharing their life stories and passions with me, and for that I am forever grateful.”

The research fellowships provide 10 weeks of compensation. The program concluded with a seminar during which the students gave five-minute presentations about their research and conclusions.

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