UA College of Engineering

Volume Holographic Imaging System for Early Detection of Ovarian Cancer Reaches Milestone

Raymond Kostuk and his research team have developed a bench-top version of an instrument capable of detecting ovarian cancer, a disease often referred to as the “silent killer” because it presents no symptoms until it is highly advanced.
 Raymond Kostuk and one of his grad students, Isela Howlett, test the new bench-top imaging instrument for ovarian cancer.

The bench-top version of the volume holographic  imaging system, which shows promise for detecting ovarian cancer in situ, uses specialized holographic components in a microscope to generate images capable of detecting subtle tissue microstructure changes as well as fluorescent bio-chemical signatures.

Working with Dr. Kenneth Hatch, of the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine, and his consenting patients, as well as researchers in the BIO5 Institute, Kostuk and his co-investigator Jennifer Barton, who now holds the position of associate vice president for research at the UA, have completed a study of cancerous and non-cancerous ovarian tissue in which the imaging system successfully identified abnormal spatial and spectral markers of cancerous ovarian tissue removed during surgery.

Now the research team is working on a miniature endoscopic version that further enhances imagery, achieves even greater contrast, and is capable of reliably diagnosing ovarian cancer in real time during noninvasive laparoscopic procedures and screenings.

“The instrument is cost effective, easy to use, and holds the promise of saving lives,” said Kostuk, who holds a joint appointment in the College of Optical sciences,

Only 45 percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer live more than five years after diagnosis, according to the National Institutes of Health. Surviving ovarian cancer, which spreads quickly and is known to attack generations of women in genetically predisposed families, depends on early diagnosis. To date, there is no single effective screening test for ovarian cancer. Noninvasive imaging methods lack sufficient resolution to detect ovarian cancer, so surgically removing affected tissue is the only way to diagnose the rapidly progressive disease. The result is that more than 50 percent of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed in late stages of the disease.

The National Institutes of Health has provided significant funding for the research, and Kostuk is in the process of seeking renewed funding. Patents and invention disclosures have attracted the attention of several investment groups.

“Commercialization of the instrumentation may not be far off,” Kostuk said.

Former Astronaut Presents Scholarship to ECE Senior

Former Skylab astronaut Ed Gibson presents UA electrical and computer engineering senior Casey Mackin with a scholarship check.

One lived in space. The other is immersed in a world of computers. Both value those moments in time when everything just seems to come together. Together the two served as inspiration for more than 150 University of Arizona students, faculty and support staff during a recent Astronaut Scholarship Foundation check presentation.

Former Skylab astronaut and U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame member Ed Gibson was on campus Sept. 12 to present UA College of Engineering senior Casey Mackin with a $10,000 scholarship.

“I am sure our nation couldn’t be in better hands,” said Gibson, describing Mackin and 25 other 2012 Astronaut Scholarship recipients nationwide. The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation is a national nonprofit organization that promotes the retention of college students in the science and technology fields.

Mackin, an electrical and computer engineering honors student, works on the UA Data Adaptable Reconfigurable Embedded Systems, or DARES, project. He is helping develop ways to improve computing performance and efficiency. He said the most exciting part of research for him is the day a product is complete and ready to demonstrate.

“It gives you a sense of satisfaction when everything finally comes together,” said Mackin, encouraging fellow students to stay connected with their professors and get involved in research. “Research can be highly rewarding and will expose you to many other opportunities.”

Mackin attended high school in Sierra Vista, Ariz., and intends to pursue a doctorate after graduating from the UA next year. He credits his professors, especially Roman Lysecky and Jonathan Sprinkle, as well as his early involvement in research with motivating him to remain in academia.

“I plan to continue doing research during and after graduate school. I would like to remain in academia and hope to become a professor,” said Mackin. "I like the idea of building things and being able to create my own ideas and see whether they work."

The second half of the astronaut scholarship presentation included Gibson describing his 84-day orbit of Earth as science pilot in 1973 and 1974 during the Skylab 4 mission, the third and final manned flight to the Skylab space station. He described the explosion, vibration, acceleration and floating of takeoff and flight; his weightless home some 250 miles above earth; walking in space in a silent world except the whispers of his own breath, and the return home, to gravity.

Now president of Casey Aerospace Corporation in Orlando, Fla., Gibson and two fellow astronauts had circled the globe 1,214 times, traveled 34.5 million miles and brought back 1,718 pounds of film, data and biomedical specimens for scientific study.

“We will never stop exploring,” Gibson told attendees of the scholarship presentation, held at the UA Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering building. “It is hardwired into our psyche.”

Conference Room Dedicated to Entrepreneur Tom Brown

Picture of Burr Brown Conference Room Ribbon CuttingAppreciation for a man who has been described as an Edisonian engineer, a one-man whirlwind, homegrown entrepreneur, and the quintessential industry partner, was universally apparent on the faces of alumni and friends of the University at the recent dedication of the Thomas R. Brown Conference Room.

In a fitting tribute to Brown, who with a lot of hard work and a bit of good luck morphed a garage startup into one of Arizona’s most successful high-tech electronics firms, UA President Ann Weaver Hart, in her inaugural visit to the electrical and computer engineering building, described the Burr-Brown years as a time when the “real rubber hit the road.”
The ongoing public-private relationship between the University and the Brown family, Hart said, shows how we achieve dreams through shared resources. Tom Brown “truly understood the importance of that type of partnership: in recruiting and retaining the best faculty, in being able to give financial aid to the best students, and in building programs.”

The Thomas R. Brown Foundations has endowed numerous professorships and student scholarships in the UA's College of Engineering, College of Science, and Eller College of Management.

Brown, who died in 2002 at the age of 75, founded Burr-Brown Research Corp. in 1956 with friend Page Burr, whom Brown later bought out. The company, one of world’s largest suppliers of high-performance analog semiconductors, was sold to Texas Instruments 12 years ago in a stock deal worth more than $7 billion, the semiconductor industry's largest-ever acquisition at the time.  

On hand for the Aug. 29 dedication were trustees of the Thomas R. Brown Foundations, including Brown’s daughters Mary Brown Bernal and Sarah Brown Smallhouse, UA faculty and staff, retired Burr-Brown employees, and former and current Texas Instruments employees. Many in attendance not only were longtime Burr-Brown employees, but also they were graduates of the UA College of Engineering.

“My father's success in business prospered because of the close relationship he developed with the UA. The UA gave Burr-Brown its competitive edge to rise to global excellence,” Smallhouse said.

The conference room, which has been more than a year in the making, shows the close ties between Burr-Brown and the University over the years. Colorful graphic panels chart the Burr-Brown history decade by decade, and one panel highlights the work of Linda Powers, who holds the Thomas R. Brown Chair in Bioengineering.
Retired Burr-Brown and Texas Instruments engineer Paul Prazak, who managed the room’s design with the help of former colleagues, and Jerzy Rozenblit, former head of the electrical and computer engineering department, spearheaded the project.

Tom Brown: the Man, the Company, His Legacy, as Told Through the Conference Room Panels

University of Arizona College of Engineering