Dean's Dissertation Award, Fall 2019
The photoacoustic effect – the creation of sound using light – was first described in the late 1800s, but only recently have scholars considered its use in the biomedical field.
Engineering doctoral candidate Christopher Miranda conducts research focused on utilizing the phenomenon for deep tissue imaging and neural applications. His findings are contributing to innovations in technologies and methods that are widely applicable to research labs and clinics across the world. This fall he is being honored with the Dean’s Dissertation Award.
Miranda has been interested in imaging since his undergraduate years in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, where he majored in biomedical engineering and minored in physics. When he began the doctoral program, he worked in the Image Processing Applications Laboratory at ASU under David Frakes, where he focused heavily on imaging techniques.
One of the reasons Miranda chose to pursue his doctoral degree at ASU was because it gave him the opportunity to work with Barbara Smith. Smith was working to create a photoacoustic endoscopy system that could be used to assess uterine health, and Miranda assisted her with developing several prototypes that successfully imaged excised uteri.
During his training, he spent two weeks at the National Institutes of Health BRAIN Initiative, and after that began to explore how photoacoustic endoscopy could be used in neuroscience.
“In order to accomplish this, however, we would need endoscopes to be much smaller,” Miranda explains.
So the team came up with a photoacoustic endoscope that uses hollow optical waveguides, which allow scientists to build much smaller imaging probes. The gold standard for high-resolution recordings of neurons involves interfacing a single cell with the small tip of a glass micropipette electrode.
“These micropipette electrodes were essentially hollow optical waveguides that tapered down to a small tip,” Miranda explained. “This allowed us to use light exiting the small tip for optics-based techniques, including photoacoustics. By rethinking the current gold standard, we were able to make strides in the development of a robot that can automate this incredibly difficult technique of recording from single brain cells.”
Miranda plans to pursue his research in a post-doctoral program.
He says when he leaves ASU, his favorite memories will be of the people he’s worked with.
“I met many tremendously talented people during my time here and it has been a privilege to get to know them, to learn from them, and to watch them accomplish great things.”