2013 Summer Intern Mercy Farnum


Overview & Goal
I quantified the “roundness” of the skull in terms of eccentricity and sphericity, then separately compared these values against data representing the amount of energy needed to induce a thermal rise in patients (quantified as a term called an “alpha value”). The goal of this project was a part of the larger effort to correlate a patient’s physical features with the details of the treatment in order to determine how to treat each patient in the most effective way possible.

There was no relationship between the eccentricity of a patient’s head and their alpha value. However, there was a discernible negative correlation between the sphericity of a patient’s head and their alpha value, thus indicating that the more spherical a patient’s head is, the more difficult it is to induce a thermal rise in their brain.

What was the most important learning point of your internship experience?
I found the importance of broader contexts to be interesting. Every project ties into a larger initiative. Mine, for example, is a part of the ongoing process to better understand how to predict the effects of focused ultrasound based on the physical features of the skull. Going through this process, in turn, expands the potential uses of focused ultrasound for treating brain-based ailments, while also making it easier to use, develop, and adopt on a larger scale. The Focused Ultrasound Foundation sits at the center of it all and connects scientists from all over the globe so they can share questions and ideas. Working here has given me an impressive view of how scientific collaboration can work.

How will your accomplishments impact the field of focused ultrasound?
Ideally, it will help inform other focused ultrasound researchers who are still searching for a way to use the physical features of a patient’s skull as a means of predicting the amount of energy needed in a sonication.

What is your dream job?
I’d really enjoy combining my love for biology with my love for languages by translating medical articles. I’d also love to have the opportunity to work on developing a new vaccine because I think that they are one of the most important inventions in the modern world.