Proposed projects 1999-2000: BME 272-273

Contact Project Description
Dr. Joseph Bruner

Development of a surgical assistive device
Dr Bob Galloway
Tracking device development
Dr. Paul King


"Attention: Engineering department
Dear Engineering Department,
Subject: Challenge for you're engineering students.

You see my son is four years old and is paralyzed from the chest down and he's unable to walk. Not being able to walk brings on several problems but health problems arise from not having any weight bearing on the lower extremities. He has braces and a walker but he's unable to understand the function it takes to make them move. They are chest high braces that take a swing gate to make each leg move. My hopes are that someone can come up with a way to make the brace move each leg by the push of a button on the walker. I'm not mechanically minded but I know there has to be a way to help not only my son but also other children whom have no mobility. My challenge is for your students to come up of a way for my son to walk around the house or driveway at least part of the time to help with the medical problems that arise from using a wheelchair so often. I'll be sending this letter to different colleges and I hope to hear from you soon."  (name withheld, letter via Dr. Overholser)
Russ Waitman


Dr. Burelbach (senior anesthesiology resident
and BME grad)  would like to serve as a clinical contact/guide. 

The project: Dynamic Intraoperative Anesthetic Record via WWW Active Server Pages.

The idea: Query our intraop database and the physiological database and reconstruct an improved record similar to the existing paper chart. HR, BP, gas values would come from the physiological database, while items like drugs used and blood loss would come from the intraop record. The students would need to explore things like optimizing the user interface (Patrick Norris did a similar effort a couple years back for the CCU), smoothing functions, and trend analysis. There is the potential to testing ideas for smart alarms or incident detection algorithms but that is probably not an immediate goal of Anesthesiology.

Nimesh and I would probably be the main technical resource and Dr. Higgins would be the clinical resource. Development may involve Visual Interdev/Visual Basic but Visual J++ could probably be used as well. I am not totally sure what the best way to create the dynamic graphs would be but it should be a good area for the students to investigate. A key area would be the ability to update the graph as new data arrives in the database.
I don't know how big of a project you want to make this. The idea above may be too trivial for a year long project.
Therefore, we discussed some add-on features.

1. Additional video monitoring. Allow the user who is monitoring the room via the web to select a video option that would bring up a video link of the room so the user could see what is being done to the patient. This would be a static video camera, possibly a Quickcam or something. The basis of this idea is that an anesthetist could view several rooms at once (have several sessions of IE or Netscape) and would want to see more than just the vital signs.

2. Messaging. The anesthetist remotely monitoring the case would want to have the ability to send a message to the anesthetist in the room. This could be a pop-up form that sends a message to the Fujitsu device in the OR which is used by the local anesthetist.

Other possible project: Physiological Data Collection in Medical Center East and in the Main OR Heart Rooms.

This would involve specifying and implementing a system and programs to collect data from all the Marquette monitors in MCE and the Heart rooms. It would be similar to what I have developed for the HPs in TVC, FEL and the main OR. If someone was a real glutton for punishment they could look at writing an interface to the Careport. That may still need to be accomplished.

James E. Crowe, Jr, MD

Dept Pediatrics@VUH


"Vanderbilt Vaccine Clinic Dynamic Database"

..."Assist in converting a Unix-based proprietary database into a more flexible dynamic database that will use a web interface.  The structure of the database is in Microsoft Access, and the interface will utilize Cold Fusion.  Experience with Cold Fusion, Access, and NT server software is preferred"...  We are executing an important transition from a locally used database to a secure Web-based strategy that will be used in ongoing multicenter vaccine trials. Students will gain real-world experience in defining state of the art firewalls and other security measures. The student(s) will develop user friendly data entry hardware and software solutions that can be used in fast-paced clinical and laboratory settings.

Dr. Bill Walsh

Chief Nurseries


1.  A potential project would be to dramatically decrease noise pollution in the NICU by converting the audible alarms which now go off frequently (every 7 seconds on average) with a visual light system at each bedside. This would require understanding the alarm outputs and designing circuitry to change to a visual system.

2.  I would dearly like to have a computer literate student complete the ECMO model project begun last year.  I now have a working copy of your excellent program, there are numerous minor corrections I need to make prior to being actually able to try it as a teaching tool like adding the Venous Sat display to the scenarios, but unfortunately although I feel rather competent as a neonatologist it would probably take me a years study to learn how to access and edit the program. I have no one familiar enough with visual basic to "get into the program" and change it. Do you know of anyone who could perform this magic? Thanks

3.  I feel that the design of a teaching model for neonatal ventilation is possible to address.

4.  Development of intelligent monitoring with Dr Lindstrom (see below)   It would be possible to use the NICU SIMON system to do a senior project.  The server is connected to one bed in the NICU, and collects data from the HP Merlin monitor and the SaO2 monitor.  A project could involve developing a smart monitor that would use the redundant heartrate information to distinguish electrode problems from real cardiac events.  Another idea would be to try to detect real apnea episodes and notify the attending physician of the frequency and duration of apneic events.  Patrick Norris or Benoit Dawant would be able to tell you more about interfacing with the system.
Dr. Ed Stone, Otolaryngology

 Technical supervision: Dr. King or other...

Project 1:  Title: Voice amplification for automobile drivers.
Description: Individuals handicapped by weak voice often find need for a louder voice when the listener is (a) not able to see the individual's face and (b) when there is significant ambient noise. Both conditions are encountered when the individuals attempting to communicate while driving a car as, for example,those in real estate sales, cab/limo drivers, etc.

A possible solution might be to employ a head-mounted, voice activated, FM microphone which would provide a voiced signal that would transmitted to the vehicle's radio and played in "quadraphonic" sound to both the front and back seat passengers. This would seem to be a project that might eventually have appeal for the auto industry.

Project 2:  Title: Refinement of a device for assessing air flow rate during production of voice based upon the Bernoulli effect.
Description: Previous work by Bio-engineering students resulted in a new approach to assessing air flow rate during voice production. The final product was limited by yet unsolved difficulties in assessing turbulent air flow the resulted in the measurement device. The current project would involve solving this problem and developing software to replace that which has been written in now archaic language to facilitate the clinical application of air flow assessment. Programs written for Windows environments would be more desired than those that are DOS-based.

Project 3:  Upgrading of a timing system for endoscope sterilization & removal from cleaning solution after a fixed time...

Dr. A. B. Brill (Radiology)
Simulation and modeling of a multidetector imaging device for lead levels in the brain.
Paul H King

1)Develop a training database/software system to enable professors to link names and faces quickly...(Quickcam based...)
2)Develop an image archiving system that archives images to a central server for theft deterrence.
3)Put together a demo - local - BME 272 chat room with video and audio capabilities.
4)design and test a student scheduling system for advisees & profs
5)Develop an implantable 3 lead EKG transmitter system for mice.
Dr. David Kelso (Northwestern U)
Although we used up most all of the outside projects in the spring quarter, I'll be glad to be client for a group.  I've been consulting on coag and AMI all summer, would you like something in that area.  Or the work in the lab has been with DNA chips, how about a new way to screen blood before transfusion, or diagnose cancer.  We still need assistance with the charting system to further develop the ability to evaluate patient care problems specific to Dermatology as well as the ability to input voice recognition systems. 
Marc (Shien-Fong) Lin
Vanderbilt University/Physics
6301 Stevenson Center
1. Real-time video-based defibrillation using wavefront morphology and dynamics
2. Measuring depth and shape of tissue using 3-D video active ranging technique
3. Solenoidal inductive conductance meter for measuring counterion motion in quasicrystals of oriented, helical biopolymers
4. Application of semiconducting nanocrystals for optical modulation of transmembrane potentials in biological cells
5. cardiac cell growth apparatus
Ron Salomon, MD
Heather Crouch (Grad. Student)
Assist in the development of an analysis system to correlate the EEG and CSF data collected from human volunteers...
need for a device to control oxygen in premature infants..... details to follow
Dr. Todd Giorgio
I have a web-based project: development of a cell bioreactor simulation. Students could input bioreactor design parameters (volume, stirring speed, cell type, etc.) and get an output of cell growth, protein synthesis, etc.  The students in BME 290b (biotechnology) would use this tool during spring 2000.  All calcs would be done based on engineering models/correlations, some there would be engineering/realism built in.  Probably suitable for one, perhaps for two students.
Dr. Joseph Bruner
We need a halo irrigation ring for use during fetal surgery...  see Dr King for details first before contact My lab has ongoing projects studying the regulation of intestinal epithelial cell migration by EGF receptor signal transduction.  I am certain we can continue to find elements that lend to BME design projects.  Let me know if you have interested students.
Dr Terry Kopansky - Principal
Harris-Hillman Special Education School


The following are requests from two of our teachers regarding possible projects. From Gail Skipper:

I need a switch that would activate when pressed and then turn itself off after a set amount of time even if it was continuously touched. Then it would reactivate only if released and pressed again. I can find nothing commercially available that will do this. I have switches and timers but they won't turn off at all if continuously touched. Some students rest their hands on the switch and are not learning that they must do something in order to turn on the toy.

I also need a switch with a delay (about three seconds) before the toy is activated. This is for a student who bangs at the switch continuously.

We could use some adaptations to swing motor made by bio-med students two years ago.

From Irene Lowe:

We could use an adjustable tray with side pieces (wings) (to keep arms inside). The tray needs to adjust height and angle--to fit feeder seat.

Another project--a small motor installed under a vestibular board to make it rock intermittently. I just completed an invention for surgery but have several other ideas that   could be put to use.  I will contact you when I reach my new location (Director, Head and Neck Oncologic Surgery at MUSC in Charleston) or feel free to contact me or any students that are interested in instruments used in head and neck cancer surgery.
Peter Konrad
1)  Design an implantable, respiratory responsive phrenic nerve /diaphragmatic stimulator.
2)  Design an algorithm to perform continuous, epilepsy seizure monitoring that can be connected to a subdural grid electrode array and provide a real-time event marker (i.e. - the seizure is either beginning or not).
L. Jackson Roberts, II, MD, 
Professor of Pharmacology and Medicine,
Division of Clinical Pharmacology
Dr. Roberts is interested in the development of a head restraint system for race car driver use...   Please see Dr King for info prior to contacting Dr Roberts.   This may be a joint BME-ME type of project... 
Theodore Pincus, M.D.Professor of Medicine
We need ..."A simple data-management system for a doctor's office."   ... we have an Access-based system, which can perform many of the MEDLOG functions as a simple "generic" data management system, analogous to Quicken for bookkeeping. However, our system is too slow and not menu-driven enough for general use....  (See King for full text)   ...  a clinical telemedicine project in which we hope to deliver consultative care remotely.  This requires a store-and-forward desktop platform using secure internet access.  We have developed software to accomplish the task, but may need fine tuning.  The software uses a relational database with graphic interface so we can transmit both data and images simultaneously. The compression algorithm is JPEG (Dermatology/Family Medicine)
Dr Benjamin Johnson

I have two software design projects that may fit your needs:   The first is a opioid (narcotic) conversion program, that will assist    physicians in calculating drug dosages from one narcotic to another, using    recognized drug conversion formulas.   The second is more complex, and allows us to code our Evaluation and    Management (E/M) codes more effectively, by allowing us to enter in   historical and physical examination data, and displaying the proper level of    E/M coding information. (Note - I consider this one project (King))
Drew Gaffney
... to devise a "balloon that could be inserted into the pericardium from a small sub-xyphoid incision under local anesthesia.  The balloon assist device would have multi-chambers and would be triggered by the ECG.  One could use it for very large hearts and adjust resting volume to gradually shrink the dilated ventricles.  Over time, one might even see some improvement in LV function.  The device could be removed again under local anesthesia. Do you have anyone who might want to work on such a device?
Bill Richards & Alan Bradshaw

Development of Intraoperative Recording Device for Assessment of Bowel Viability

(I have a very extensive writeup from the proposers that I will gladly share - in person - with any student interested.  The information contained therein is not for web posting...)

Title: effect of fundoplication on sleep architecture and nocturnal gastroesophageal reflux.

1) demonstrate a definitive cause and effect relationship between reflux disease and abnormal sleep architecture, and 2) show that this operation will normalize the patients' sleep.
We plan to use the CRC as the setting in which we will perform overnight EEG, along with esophageal pH monitoring.  In addition, we would measure naso-oral airflow, blood oxygen saturation, muscle activity, and eye movements.  This would be done pre-operatively and then again post-operatively.   Radiation Oncology is a great format for the senior design projects, projects will be discussed and will be forthcoming...   1)  Design, implementation and assessment of algorithms to digitally model central nervous system white matter development and regeneration

2) Design and testing of image processing and analysis algorithms to count and classify oligodendrocytes by developmental age in thin plastic sections of optic nerve and retina.
(For the full description of these projects, see Dr King)
  (Vanderbilt U. Stallworth Center) and
(Kevin Robinson, Belmont U.)
The Vanderbilt Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital would be interested in participating again as a site for student projects.   Some ideas for projects here at present include:

1.  Modify a standard riding lawnmower, owned by a patient, for hand controls so the man-of-the-house who has paraplegia can mow the lawn himself.
2.  Modify a piece of therapy gym so a patient can easily get off without returning to the base position.
3.  Design some type of device to allow paraplegic patients who cannot bend their knees to get their pants on.
Some of these may have a simple solution that we haven't found yet.  The staff are contemplating more ideas. TechOptimizer Examples.  The department bought this course, on my advice, a device design tool called TechOptimizer, which guides one through the design or re-design process.  It has modules that help one look at phenomena necessary to create an effect, improve interactions, innovate with new principles, and look at patents for similar terms...  I would like one student to really learn this package and assist in the design/development/documentation of several examples for this years' and future classes.  If I can get a copy, I would also like to evaluate a design tool from the same company called CoBrain.  (see ) for additional information.  If several good examples can be worked up, these tools could lead to publicity for our department and an enhanced CV for the student...
Anita Mahadevan-Jansen 
1) Second generation optical spectroscopy system design: This project is a subset of this larger project where this system will be used for brain tumor margin demarcation. This system requires a LabView controlled microshutter to alternate between 2 different light sources for serial spectral acquisition. The project entials the design and building of such a device as well LabView programming required to control it. A EE/BME double major would be preferred.
2) Confocal Raman Spectroscopy for bacterial identification: A confocalRaman system needs to be designed and built. The system will have to be tested using some phanom tissue samples. A student who has taken BME 258would be preferred.
3) Identification of biochemical composition of sample from their Raman spectrum: Given a Raman spectrum from biological sample, software needs to be developed that will identify the peaks in the spectra and correlate each peak to their associated bond - molecule - compound with the sample. A student with prograaming skills is preferred. 
I would like to talk to the student before I approve their working on any of these projects.

Paul Harris, PhD, GCRC

Project #1:  GCRC Study Database Wizard: The General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) facilitates patient-oriented research for many medical disciplines.  Scientific protocols are diverse and often very different in scope and duration.  However, there always exists a need to record and organize data from each study.  I propose a database "Wizard" computer program that will create a customized database application for new GCRC protocols.  I have written a version of this "Wizard" in Microsoft Access, but I want to expand the application to include better user interface support and also allow for creation of a web-based application.  The interested student should be familiar with or be willing to learn the following computer software programs /languages:  MS-Access, MS-Visual Basic, HTML, Allaire Cold Fusion.
Project #2:  Ultrasound Image Analysis Tool: The General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) has a computer program that facilitates measurement of brachial artery diameter from ultrasound images.  I would like to further develop this program by adding digital image filter capabilities and an auto-detection routine to ensure clean non-biased measurements.  The interested student should be familiar with or be willing to learn the following computer software programs / languages:  MS Access, MS Visual Basic, MS C++.
Thomas Doyle, M.D., Pediatric Cardiology
Student teams interested in helping develop a new closure device for Patent Ductus Arteriosis are encourage to contact Dr Doyle ...
NASA, 1999 announcement

(1.) evaluating "the effects of stressors (e.g., workload, isolation, sleep loss, etc.) on physiological function,"
(2.) "the development of non-invasive diagnostic tests as well as autonomous and semi-autonomous patient monitoring systems with low false positive alarm rates,"
(3.) "small and power efficient real-time monitoring devices of known space craft toxins,"
(4.) "medical and surgical techniques, procedures, and systems ... required to diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries that may occur in space,"
(5.) "the development of non-invasive imaging systems that may be used to image bone, internal organs, and soft tissues" -- High priority!
(6.) "Medical information systems that support the onboard medical provider,"
(7.) Medical education for both physician and non-physician crew medical officers, especially in the area of "new training paradigms such as virtual reality,"
(8.) "the development of space flight treatment capabilities for acute medical and surgical emergencies,"
(9.) and many, many more technology-related areas.
Dr. Doris Quinn Efficiency Analysis of the Urology Clinic of VUMC (1) I need a good graduate student/faculty person in bioengineering willing to help me devise a simple device to deliver a stream of very small enzyme capsules ("tiny time capsules," similar to what you would see in a cold tablet) into the feeding tube of cystic fibrosis patients who are receiving continuous nighttime feedlings by a gastrostomy tube (a small tube into the stomach).  These patients lack pancreatic enzymes to digest their food and we usually just give them a handful of capsules to take before they start their feedings or have them wake up in the middle of the night to take more...this is not an option in  some of  the younger patients who cannot swallow the capsules.        I would envision something that would be connected to a 'Y"  connection into the feeding tube, mechanically driven (and microprocessor controlled?) but small enough to not add complexity to their nighttime equipment.  We can probably get some startup funds from one of the companies that makes the enzymes and there could be (limited) commercial value.     Any suggestions?
(2) I didn't know this project list existed but I also have a need for a student who might be interested in working on infant pulmonary function testing. We already have commercial equipment for testing infants but we only have one technician and she is busy doing other things. This project would involve setting up the infant lab and working with the PICU and NICU to test infants for research protocols.


Dr  Zealear works in the Department of Otolaryngology, one of his research areas involves functional electical stimulation of voice and breathing muscles.   (See Register and Medical Center newsletters of this week 9/20-9/27 for additional information.)  He is very interested in collaboration with students in the areas involving BME/EE activites as applied to voice and voice therapies... sponsored a catheter project last year, will sponsor a topic again this term ...  TBA
Dr. Duco Jansen

1) Title: Design and construction of a transgenic animal model for non-invasive measurement of angiogenesis    Description: In collaboration with the Vascular Biology Center (Dr. Tom Daniel) a student will work on the design of a genetic construct carrying the promotor for VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) and firefly luciferase as a reporter gene. The ultimate goal of this project is to establish an animal model based on transgenic techniques in which angiogenesis (the growth of new blood vessels) can monitored by detecting light produced by luciferase using our recently acquired photon counting imaging system (luciferase is an enzym that is found in fireflies and causes them to glow). The application of this animal model will be in laser irradiated wounds and tumor growth. This student will work directly with a postdoc in Dr. Daniel's lab and a graduate student in my lab.

2) Title: Automated laser spotsize measurement system    Description: The effect of the laser radiation from Free Electron Laser on tissue is a function of fluence (also known as intensity). In other words it is a function of both pulse energy and the size of the spot over which the light is delivered. Hence accurate and rapid measurement of spotsizes is crucial in many medical laser experiments. Last year a group of two BME students started this project and succesfully developed a system that measures the spotsize in one dimension. The system was developed under LabVIEW. The goal for this project is to further develop this system in two ways: 1) to develop a non-linear curve fitting algorhytm to calculate the spotsize from a set of fairly noisy data; and 2) extend the spotsize measurement to the second dimension. This project could be worked on by a group of two students. I will involve learning LabVIEW (a desirable skill to have when it comes to finding a job) and use of the FEL.

John R. Smart, III, D. O., M.S.P.H.
Assistant Medical Director
Clover Bottom Developmental Center
231-5000 Ext. 4471
  Clover Bottom Developmental Center is a 300 bed state institution for the Mentally Retarded. Most of these individuals have numerous medical problems. About 50, have enteral feeding tubes for nutrition, due to severe dysphagia.
  Chronic management of these tubes reveals inherent problems with their design, in long term use. These include displacement, skin breakdown, tube blockage and persistent problems of continued years of pulmonary aspiration for the patient.
  Our experience indicates that a combination jejunostomy/gastrostomy tube has promise in alleviating some of these difficulties (if some modifications could be done).
  We would appreciate if someone were interested in tackling this problem.