Sossena Wood is a bioengineer pursuing her PhD at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research focuses on improving the detection of brain disease in humans using MRI machines instead of surgery. "Discovering You: Engineering Your World" is produced by NBC News Learn in partnership with Chevron, the American Society for Engineering Education and the National Science Foundation.
Discovering You – Engineering Your World – Sossena Wood
SOSSENA WOOD (Bioengineer):
I’m Sossena Wood and I'm a bioengineer. My mom is a nurse and my dad is a pharmacist. So they are two individuals who work in the medical field. I thought that I would stay away from it, but I find myself being lured into it and really having the heart like them to help people out.
I really always have liked the brain and how the brain works. It's one of the strongest organs in your body, and doing some research here as an undergraduate, that's where I started crossing into this field.
When we look at the brain, we're looking at both healthy patients as well as individuals who happen to have some type of damage or disease in their brain. We want be able to see, without cutting someone open, what exactly is happening if something is wrong.
We look at the brain using MRI machines. The coil is a device that we're using to image the brain. It's made of plastic, copper, circuitry to push power through from the MRI machine, transfer it to magnetic energy, pass that through the human brain, then capture that again, send it to a computer, and all of a sudden you get an image. The ultimate goal of our work is to design the coil to detect disease as well as neurological disorders in humans.
This is our coil that we've developed in our lab. This was the first prototype of it. This is the head phantom that I built. It's supposed to mimic the human brain. We will put the head phantom in here first to make sure that everything looks right. And then after that, we invite a volunteer in and we begin to optimize what we see on the computer end.
My plan after I get my Ph.D. is to become a professor. I think professors have a really cool gig where they can teach, they can write books, they can do research, they can start their own companies. Engineers are problem-solvers, and when you want to solve a problem, you really need diverse perspectives at the table.
Whatever you can think of that our world needs, there's someone that needs to design that. There's someone thinking of an idea somewhere in this world that could change our world and our way of living and we just need to give them the right resources to be able to do such.
Sossena Wood works with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines. The machines are used to study humans, but they can be used to study animals, too. Learn more in this TIME for Kids story.
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