Thursday, April 28, 2016

URSP Student Lauren Hirt Conducts Research to Find a Correlation between Differential Pulse Transit Time and Blood Pressure

People are often curious as to what bioengineers actually do. I’ve gotten some very imaginative assumptions, such as creating human-animal mutants! Bioengineers are actually responsible for creating, designing, and researching to improve the ability of healthcare providers to care for patients. This includes a wide variety of occupations such as designing medical equipment and prosthetics, developing new pharmaceuticals, discovering more effective methods of medical imaging or processing, and statistical analysis of biological data just to name a few.

Currently, I am conducting research to find a correlation between differential pulse transit time and blood pressure. I first became interested in this project while completing a writing assignment for a technical writing class. I needed to interview one of my professors about their research process and after talking with Dr. Vasiliki Ikonomidou I was eager to get involved. She graciously allowed me to learn from her and join her neuroimaging laboratory, and it has been one of the best decisions of my academic career. Not only have I learned more about bioengineering, but I have also gained numerous skills from Dr. Ikonomidou and other undergraduate and graduate students in the lab. In addition, they have advised me on areas to consider for a career and preparing for interviews. We also have a really good time brainstorming, problem solving, or just hanging out in the lab!

A “day in the research of Lauren” consists of preforming experimental trials and analyzing the data I’m receiving. I’m using video footage to observe the differential pulse transit time, or the difference in the pulse of blood flow beneath the skin with each heart beat on two distal locations, by detecting the change in color on the subject’s forehead and palm. I am using statistical analysis to observe whether there is a correlation between this and blood pressure, which I am taking with a traditional blood pressure cuff. In order to cause a rise and fall in blood pressure, the subject does light exercise on an exercise bike. The end goal of the larger project is to create a remote blood pressure detection application. It has been very exciting to work on this project and it is exciting to see different areas I am gaining experience in that I didn’t expect. For instance, this week I have spent a considerable amount of time just learning about cameras and their settings. Research always seems to take me down paths I didn’t expect, but I am really enjoying the adventure!