2013 Summer Intern Carissa Carlson



In this project (in vivo transcranial cavitation study of low frequency focused ultrasound in pigs, by Carissa Carlson, University of Virginia Class of 2014, Engineering and Applied Science) pigs were sonicated with low frequency focused ultrasound under varied power and duration parameters in order to create either thermal or mechanical lesions in their brains. The treatment phase of this project was already completed when I became involved; therefore, my specific project was to sort, summarize, and analyze the data collected during treatment.

The goal of this project is to further understand and control the creation of lesions in the brain using low frequency focused ultrasound.

The most significant result was the determination of a safety threshold for the use of low frequency focused ultrasound in the brain. This threshold, calculated from the frequency spectra, is a value above which hemorrhaging in the brain is likely to occur and below which hemorrhaging should not occur. By establishing this value, we provide researchers and clinicians with an important measurement for terminating treatment and preventing the patient from being harmed.

Why were you initially interested in working with the Focused Ultrasound Foundation?
Dr. Aubry gave a lecture in my Imaging Anatomy Physiology class this past spring semester. The most memorable part of his presentation was when he spoke about the essential tremor clinical trials. My entire class and I were amazed after watching the videos of the first patient, Billy Williams, before and after treatment. Focused ultrasound is already changing individual lives in addition to revolutionizing the entire medical field. I was excited to become involved.

What was the most important learning point of your internship experience?
The most important thing I’ve learned is how to function as a “real” engineer. While college courses do their best to prepare us for future jobs, there is no substitute for firsthand experience. During my time at the Foundation, I’ve gotten a feel for what it is like to do medical research. I was able to analyze large amounts of data, draw a significant conclusion, present my findings, and interact with experienced researchers and doctors. My time at the Foundation has provided me with a great first step toward life after college.

Has your internship affected your career plans? If so, how?
My experience at the Foundation has made me excited for my future career as a biomedical engineer. I could definitely see myself becoming more involved in the field of focused ultrasound, whereas I was previously interested in the fields of orthopedics, prosthetics, and injury science. Regardless of the field I end up in, it is the aspect of working with a new, high potential technology that I intend to pursue.