My dream come true: A summer at Columbia University’s UEIL Lab


Ultrasound Elasticity Imaging Laboratory (UEIL) is part of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University and it is also one of the biggest labs in its field of ultrasound. It has approximately 30 people from different educational levels in its employ. The UEIL works on developing novel, ultrasound-based techniques for both imaging and therapeutic applications. The main areas of focus at the time include drug delivery to the brain by opening the blood-brain barrier (BBB) using focused ultrasound, mapping the mechanical and electromechanical properties of the heart, harmonic motion imaging, pulse wave imaging, and neuromodulation.

During this internship, I will start by processing images of the skull microstructure. Figure 1 is a binary image of the skull microstructure that I created. This internship requires me to become proficient in Matlab, read research papers in order to understand preexisting information and form questions that are relevant to the goal of this research. The goal of my project is to extract valuable information for the skull microstructure such as its porosity, the number of pores and their size, and its density.

Figure 1: Binary image

When we are dealing with Focused Ultrasound in the brain either for imaging or therapeutic purposes, the biggest obstacle we have to overcome is the skull. The reason is that it makes it difficult to pass the ultrasonic wave through. Studying the skull microstructure will enable us to see how it impacts the wave propagation. This information helps the focused ultrasound work more precisely, something crucial in terms of BBB opening or ultrasound therapy in the brain.

This internship will help me to achieve the goals I have set for myself. In the world of science, programming is the most essential tool to conduct research. An important goal for me is to learn how to analyze data in Matlab. In order to do that, I will have to also learn the different methods of collecting data and the use of appropriate controls. Another reason I decided to do an internship in a research lab is that I believe it will help me decide if I want to pursue this career. Two months might be a short time period, but it will certainly get me a bit closer in setting my future goals even through this online interaction. 

Lastly, working on a team has always been a way for me to be more productive and to gain inspiration. However, this internship will require me to work independently, solve challenging questions, while also coming up with new questions to solve. Through weekly progress meetings, the other interns and I will have the opportunity to learn details about each other’s projects, gain a better understanding of the bigger picture, and have all the support we need. Overall, this internship will help me achieve my main goal which is allowing myself to struggle and find ways to overcome those challenges on my own.