HHMI PROJECT SUMMARY
Original Project (2002 grant)
The initial grant supported two initiatives. The first was the creation of Bioengineering and World Health, an introductory science course for nonscience majors designed to help them think critically about new health-care technologies and the apportionment of limited health-care resources, so they will be better able to contribute to public policy debates regarding investment in basic and applied biomedical research. The semester-long course answers four questions: (1) What are the problems in health today and how do they differ throughout the world? (2) Who pays to solve problems in health care? (3) How can we use technology to solve world-health problems? (4) How do technologies move from bench to bedside? The course examines case studies of vaccination to prevent disease, imaging to detect cancer, and devices to treat heart disease. Students also work in small groups to complete a research project on a disease and biomedical technology of their choice. The goal of the project is to design a clinical trial to test the new technology and to write a clinical research protocol and informed consent document that follow Institutional Review Board guidelines. The course is now offered annually at Rice University and the University of Texas at Austin (UT–Austin).
The second initiative, the summer Clinical Medical/Clinical Research Internship program, is offered to bioengineering majors annually at Rice and UT–Austin. The internships provide students with firsthand experience in interdisciplinary research and expose them to clinical needs, clinical trials, and outcomes research. Multidisciplinary teams of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, clinicians, biomedical scientists, and biomedical engineers supervise the interns. The goal is to increase the bioengineering students' interest in careers in which they can integrate advances in basic research and clinical medicine to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic technologies.
Project Update (2006 grant)
We will continue the Clinical Medical/Clinical Research internship program for bioengineering majors at Rice and UT–Austin. We will also disseminate the program through three activities: We will develop a manual that includes all program materials and describes how to implement the program; we will sponsor a booth at the annual Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) meeting to identify faculty interested in implementing similar courses at their institutions; and we will invite these faculty, along with some of their students, to participate in our course to help them prepare for their own courses.
We will disseminate the curriculum for the Bioengineering and World Health course to undergraduate institutions throughout the United States and assess gains in science literacy. To this end, we plan to sponsor a booth at the annual BES meeting to share information about the course and identify faculty who would be interested in developing similar courses. We will provide these faculty with a complete set of instructional materials and a simple biomedical literacy assessment tool that can be implemented at the beginning and conclusion of the course. In addition, we will develop a modified version of the course curriculum for middle and high school students and implement this within the Houston Independent School District (HISD). An outreach team, which will include undergraduate students, will work initially with one middle school and one high school; each summer we will hold a teacher training workshop to expand the number of participating schools in the HISD. The results of this pilot project will form the basis for wider dissemination in Texas and beyond.
My research focuses on developing and testing optical technologies for cervical precancer. In phase 1 trials, my lab showed that fluorescence-based algorithms can recognize precancer; their performance exceeds the standard of care. My lab also developed a fiber-optic confocal microscope that provides detailed images of tissue architecture and cellular morphology in living tissue near video rate. My lab is undertaking a large trial of confocal imaging for detection of oral precancer as well as trials testing this technology to rapidly assess tumor margins and response of tumors to therapy.
Recently, my lab embarked on research to develop a new class of miniature microscopes. We are integrating microoptical systems, micromechanical components, and image sensors to achieve high sensitivity and specificity in a miniaturized, cost-effective package. It envisions battery-powered, pen-sized multimodal miniature microscopes designed to specifically image microscopic and molecular features of precancer resection. We are also developing contrast agents to provide selective and sensitive optical detection of cancer-related biomarkers in vivo.
Last updated March 2007