Through PURM, I joined Chamith Rajapakse’s team in the Radiology Department of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work in this lab because of the positive, collaborative culture of the team and the incredibly interesting research being done here. Though I was initially intimidated by the knowledge and experience of other members of the lab team, they quickly embraced my presence in the lab and made me feel welcome. This cooperative environment gave me the opportunity to work on a variety of projects throughout the summer. A few of my favorites were 3D printing with different materials, embedding, segmenting, and staining human bone samples, and creating 3D models of bone strain using finite element analysis technologies.
My main project for this summer was writing an abstract on the using FDG and NaF PET/CT imaging techniques to study plaque inflammation and microcalcification in the descending thoracic. The objectives of this study were to establish a more complete understanding of the relationship between plaque inflammation and microcalcification in the descending thoracic aorta, to help explain how these factors are linked to cardiovascular disease (CVD), and to develop a strategy to better image and detect CVD risk factors.
Through working on this project, I learned how to write an abstract and was given the opportunity to submit it to an imaging conference. I was taught how to segment different parts of the body (aorta, spine, heart, peripheral arteries) on the operator guided computer software PMOD. In addition, I studied the current imaging techniques used to detect and monitor cardiovascular disease and the shortcomings of these methods. As a result, I have developed a more complete understanding of how imaging works (specifically the physics behind imaging) and how current imaging practices can be further improved.
I really enjoyed my experience this summer and feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to work alongside and learn from such intelligent, passionate and kind people. Working in this lab has made me more excited about medicine and has prompted me to question how I can contribute to upcoming medical breakthroughs. I look forward to my continued work in this lab.