2021 Summer Intern Report: Colin Haws

Colin Haws

University of Virginia, Class of 2022

Optimization and Application of a Focused Ultrasound Foundation Low-Cost Hydrophone Scanning System

Project Overview

With help from my advisors and online forums, I worked to optimize the Foundation’s hydrophone scanning tank and apply the system toward the engineering of versatile lenses. This included hardware and software updates to make the scanning system more reliable during tests of system accuracy, more accessible through renovated graphical user interface options, and more thorough in specifications to help in manuscript publication. We then designed and characterized 3D-printed lenses with our scanning system to allow for focal region modulation.

Documented optimization and implementation of the Foundation’s low-cost hydrophone scanning system will progress its adoption by everyday scientists as a practical tool for transducer characterization. My goal was to accelerate this process through hydrophone tank refinements intended to improve functionality while also demonstrating its use in research and design through fabrication of 3D printed lenses.

Project Outcomes
I can confidently conclude that the Foundation’s hydrophone is a robust and positionally accurate system for characterizing transducers. My experimentation with 3D printed lenses has yielded both visible and quantifiable evidence for creating an enlarged, homogeneous region of hyperthermia. Future lens iterations will bring the possibility of personalized medicines through fine-tuned transducer modulation for the already rapidly growing field of focused ultrasound.

Did you complete your work at the Foundation’s offices or virtually? How do you think your location impacted your experience?

I was in the Foundation office through my summer internship. Being in person allowed me to have more conversations with my advisors and enhanced the progress of the projects. I was also grateful to meet others at the Foundation through lunches and other events.

What was the most important learning point of your internship experience?
My opportunity to shadow Dr. Padilla’s work treating pancreatic cancer with focused ultrasound was one of the greatest experiences from my summer with the Foundation. I was able to see exactly how the software was used in mouse trials and how the process could be optimized for further clinical work.

Has your internship affected your career plans? If so, how?
My experience has encouraged me to pursue graduate studies with the eventual goal of working at an organization similar to the Foundation in that it is focused on advancing a biotechnology and has a clear focus on clinical translation. In performing literature sweeps throughout my summer internship, I am fascinated with emerging subfields within focused ultrasound, including sonothermogenetics and gene deliveries. I am excited to expand my knowledge in these and similar areas of research through further studies encircling genetic engineering.

What is one tip that you would give 2022 summer interns?
I am no artist, but I always found it helpful to draw out my problems. Also, asking more questions always got me closer to a solution.