SyBBURE Student Highlight
Jad El Harake, Biomedical Engineering, Class of 2018
Jad El Harake embodies the spirit of SyBBURE. He is goofy, loves science, and was crazy enough to take a year of organic chemistry “for fun.” He is the big brother of SyBBURE. He is always available to help out, whether it’s reassuring a nervous student new to research and SyBBURE, or making a long day much better with one of his absurd jokes. If he has one weakness, it’s that he can easily be peer pressured to jump off a cliff because all his friends did!
Jad has a natural empathy and a knack for mentorship. As a sophomore, he became a VUceptor and an RA. He chose to do these leadership roles because he wanted to give back to Vanderbilt: “I have had an incredible 4 years at Vanderbilt full of amazing opportunities. I wanted to do my share to help other students adjust to college and learn to love Vanderbilt like I did.” His ability to collaborate with people and make them feel at ease around him will carry him far as a scientist.
In the lab, Jad is an ultrasound pro! His work involves simulating ultrasound on a computer, taking the results from the simulation, and translating it to the physical world. He improved his programming and critical thinking skills. His project aimed to improve how we focus ultrasonic beams through the skull. Rather than use a probe to image, ultrasound can focus like sunlight through a magnifying glass to heat up tissue or stimulate neurons in a confined area of the brain. So, surgery isn’t required to move the skull out of the way! Unfortunately, the skull distorts the beam and make it difficult to affect only a small region of the brain. Jad wrote a simulation that used a CT scan of a skull to predict how it would distort the focused ultrasound and correct those distortions. The results of the simulation were then passed to an actual probe to target the needed region of the brain with greater accuracy.
Jad’s advice for students who are interested in research is to get used to failure:
“Research is a lot more failure than success. Everything takes longer than you think because you always run into more problems than you think you will. Murphy’s Law is real! You have to be able to learn and grow from your failures. Grad students and PIs know that better than anyone, so don’t be afraid to disappoint them. Be aware that goals need to change as things come up. Change your goals and don’t chase a goal you can’t achieve yet.”
Jad can conquer the world. He is now a biomedical engineering graduate student at Columbia University, and we are so proud of him and all of his hard work!
Acknowledgement: Dr. Charles Caskey is a professor of Radiology and Biomedical Engineering at Vanderbilt who studies the diagnostic and therapeutic uses of ultrasound. He is especially interested in image-guided therapy applications where therapeutic ultrasound is guided by ultrasonic imaging or combined with another imaging modality, such as MRI. Jad had a great experience in the Caskey Lab thanks to the mentorship and support of not only Dr. Caskey, but the other members of the lab (graduate and undergraduate students) as well.
Written by: Danielle Liu, Biomedical Engineering, Class of 2020