Welcome to my second blog entry! During the fall 2013 semester, I wrote about my research experience thus far as part of the College of Engineering Honors Program. I am now in my last semester before I graduate and am in the process of writing my honors thesis.
My research is focused on designing a diffuse reflective microendoscope (DRME), a non-invasive method that may aid in the early detection of cancer in the oral cavity or gastrointestinal tract. Under this umbrella, my research is divided into two goals. My first goal is to develop a method for creating optical phantoms that replicate the optical properties of epithelial tissue. My second goal is to build the DRME and computationally model how light behaves through phantoms and epithelial tissue.
The majority of my research last semester was the development of my first goal. I was able to design ultra-thin phantoms that replicate optical properties of human epithelial tissue, such as in the oral cavity. When epithelial tissue becomes cancerous, it becomes more optically absorbing, meaning that cancerous lesions appear darker than surrounding healthy tissue. While a dark cancerous region on the tissue surface is easily detectable by normal endoscopic methods, occasionally cancer will exist below the tissue surface. This results in undetected cancer and abnormalities. Thus, the DRME attempts to reduce the amount of false negatives. My goal is to detect hidden cancers that are not easily detectable by conventional clinical methods. Because of this, I created “dark” phantoms to simulate cancerous tissue and “light” phantoms to simulate healthy tissue. Then, I was able to stack individual layers to create a multi-layered phantom with “dark” cancerous regions buried at varying depths within “light” healthy regions. Continue reading