Internship Field: Biomedicine, Medical Research
Host: Thera Medical GmbH
Duration: 3 months in summer of 2015
Description: "I worked on the development of a tissue-mimicking phantom for use with photoacoustic ultrasound systems and for verification of medical probe detection in iThera's clinical system. Photoacoustic ultrasound uses a rapidly pulsating laser in the near-infrared range (NIR) to interrogate tissue. The light absorbed causes molecules to heat up and expand before contracting; this expanding and contracting nature generates sound waves which can then be picked up by ultrasound transducers. By collecting this data, one can reconstruct subcutaneous images of blood vessels, structures, and molecular components (like oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin).
I was lucky enough to be able to work across multiple departments, combining experiences in R&D, programming, and applications. One of my initial projects led to the development of a MATLAB-based model for various tissues with different parameters. As the summer progressed, I was able to build that model into a software executable that many people in the company now use to not only model tissue, but also to combine various user-inputted dye spectra to produce tissue mimicking materials. My MATLAB knowledge grew a lot throughout this experience; I think I am more comfortable with programming than ever before, and I am now interested in additional classes to further develop this skill set.
In parallel, I also developed a method to stabilize such dyes and to incorporate them into tissue mimicking phantoms, which are used to test imaging systems. In addition to testing the dyes, I also characterized different gels, such as agar, agarose, and phytagel and compared several different scattering agents (which scatter laser light, similar to proteins in your tissue) and optimized a tissue mimicking combination through 15 different iterations. In doing so, I was able to provide the company a way to verify their clinical product and its detection specifications."
Comments: "I learned a lot about a relatively new, still developing field; I loved the work, and it was the first time I have had a job in the field I want to end up in, which I think was a really eye-opening experience. I think I developed more social interaction or networking skills, which will be extremely useful in the upcoming job search senior year. I was also able to obtain both international and start-up experiences as well, something I believe contributes greatly to my professional development. In addition to academic and intellectual knowledge, I learned a lot about life, professional relationships, and Bavarian culture."
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