Cultivating the next generation is one of several strategies that the Foundation uses to fulfill its mission, and our scholars program allows us to introduce bright and promising students to the field of focused ultrasound. Sam Clinard joined the Foundation as a 2019 summer intern, and he has now chosen to pursue a doctorate in biomedical engineering at the University of Utah. We interviewed Sam to learn more about his ambitions in the field.
You completed your undergraduate degree in physics. How did you learn about focused ultrasound?
In the spring right before graduation, I was looking for a job, and there was a career fair at the Tom Tom Summit and Festival. The Foundation had a booth there, and I talked with a staff member who connected me to Dr. Matt Eames. Before that day I had never heard of focused ultrasound and didn’t know what it was – I did not even understand the difference between therapeutic and imaging ultrasound.
Explain your summer internship project.
Last summer I worked with another intern, Hannah DeVore, to develop an acoustic intensity measurement system. As described on my internship page, the primary goal of the project was to automate the acquisition of an acoustic intensity field. This was previously done manually, which is incredibly time consuming. Our secondary goals were to develop more advanced measurement options, such as finding the maximum intensity within a volume. The majority of my time was spent in the lab working on the devices interface.
What happened after your summer internship?
At the end of internship, Dr. Kassell and Dr. Eames offered me a research associate position. It has allowed me to complete the hydrophone project and begin to design components for other projects.
What is your goal for graduate school?
I will be joining the focused ultrasound group at the University of Utah to earn my PhD in Biomedical Engineering. The courses in the first two years will support my research and provide a fundamental understanding of the biomedical field. In the third year, I will propose an original research question that then becomes my dissertation, to be defended in my fifth year.
What department will you be in?
I will be in the Department of Biomedical Engineering on the imaging track, which is the one for focused ultrasound. I will be learning a lot about MRI. Utah also has a bioInnovate track for biomedical device innovation, and I am interested in that because it pairs students with clinicians. The students ask the clinicians about problems they encounter while caring for patients and then try to find solution by engaging with a company to develop a product that helps patients. This is an end-user approach for conducting research. The Foundation introduced me to this idea because they follow it too.
Do you have ideas for your future project?
Utah does a lot with brain research, and depression is interesting to me because my grandfather had bipolar disorder. I can see the promise of using neuromodulation to treat depression. Other brain disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, have also affected my family. Dr. Allison Payne at Utah has done incredible work toward using focused ultrasound to treat breast cancer, and my undergraduate research was on breast cancer imaging, so that could also be a good match for me. I’m interested in all of it.
What do you do for fun outside of work?
If I did not find a job, I was going to go rock climbing for a year. That is one of the reasons I am excited to be going to Utah – I would like to build a lifestyle that allows me to work hard and play hard, too. I also enjoy writing fiction in my free time.
Any final thoughts?
Focused ultrasound is such an exciting field. I learned from the Foundation that it is important to make an impact. I have had an opportunity to meet many experts in the field, and that gives me multiple options for pursuing novel research. I am grateful to the Foundation for introducing me to focused ultrasound and for helping me chart the path for my future.