Over the course of this summer, I have been fortunate enough to work in the Photoacoustics laboratory under the mentorship of Dr. Parag Chitnis. I am currently researching and developing a novel all-optical ultrasound transducer. The purpose of this project is to create a transducer that does not rely on the standard piezoelectric crystals, but rather employs the photoacoustic effect to image the body. The photoacoustic effect is the generation of sound waves from the absorption of light and subsequent thermal expansion of a material. This type of design will allow faster non-invasive scanning while producing high resolution 3D images deep within the body. I believe this project has the potential to revolutionize the medical imaging world and that is something I am very excited to contribute to.
When I chose my major as bioengineering, I had hopes of making medical imaging my profession. With that in mind, I began looking for ways to learn about the various imaging modalities outside of the classroom. My search led me to Dr. Chitnis who introduced me to this idea of creating an all new type of transducer for ultrasound imaging. I was fascinated by the idea from the beginning and I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to learn more about medical imaging as well as acquire some excellent research experience in the field. One thing led to another and now I am a funded OSCAR Researcher working with both undergraduate and graduate researchers at the Krasnow Institute.
On a weekly basis I spend my time reading published papers on optical transducers and performing experiments on the designs I have formulated. My design has two major parts: acoustic wave generation and acoustic wave detection. I am currently working on the generation portion. The lab where I work at has a very powerful high frequency pulsed laser system that I use to test the ability of certain materials to generate strong high frequency pressure waves. These experiments are tedious and, at times, frustrating but if there is one thing I have learned from this project is that research is rarely a straight path towards success. Even if my design does not work by the end of the research period, I would have left the lab with much more knowledge than I had when I first entered. That is a lesson that is constantly reinforced every week.