This year's students were guided by two undergraduates from Weber State University who joined the SCI Institute for a summer internship. In addition to the mentorship from the undergraduate students, postdoctoral fellow Dr.Vorwerk, SCI Institute graduate students, and SCI software developers assisted them during the one-month program.
The program began with an introduction of the topic of image segmentation, with a focus on Seg3D, a tool developed by the Center for Integrative Biomedical Computing (CIBC) at the SCI Institute. For the first two weeks, the students used MRI data of either the brain or heart to segment anatomical regions of interest. In the process, they learned about the software as well the medical applications, such as ischemia (oxygen deprivation) in heart tissue and Parkinson's disease in neurological cases.
The "heart" students isolated regions of the heart including; atria and ventricles and defined the aorta, artery, vena cava, and vein connections. The "brain" students segmented white and gray matter as well as cerebellum and spinal connections. They not only segmented the areas needed for the rest of the project but went beyond to learn more about anatomy as well as about the precision of the software, which demonstrates their dedication to their respective projects. The interns then used SCIRun, another software system developed in-house, to simulate electrical potentials on a surface. They were able to create and observe the effects of inducing an electrical potential in the brain (Deep Brain Stimulation) using electrodes, just as is done in the treatment of Parkinson's disease or tremors. For the heart, they were able to create a model of the electrical current during an ischemic event.
Some of the theoretical background for the studies was beyond the understanding of high school students, but Dr. Vorwerk and the team lectured the students about basic mathematical formula involved with biomedical modeling, which led to a discussion of more advanced topics such as differential equations and numerical algorithms. The students were able to catch a glimpse of "science in action" in a concrete and successful research environment. We believe this is an inspirational and fun way for them to practice and be excited about science.
In addition to learning scientific skills, the internship entailed building presentation skills. The students joined in weekly presentations and actively participated in constructive feedback sessions, which led to a presentation of their work on their last day of the internship to SCI Institute founder and Director Dr. Chris Johnson, Associate Director Dr. Greg Jones, and a few other staff members. A recording of their presentations is below. Faculty and staff provided encouragement and advice to the four students as they prepare to present the results of their internships to their classrooms in the fall.