STORY: Olin Students Present at Industry-Wide Biophotonics Conference

March 18, 2024

SPIE BiOS is the most comprehensive biomedical optics meeting in the field

In January, four Olin students from the Health Equity and Access Lab (HEAL), headed by Chhavi Goenka, assistant professor of engineering, attended and presented posters at the BiOS Expo of the SPIE Photonics West Conference in San Francisco.

SPIE BiOS is the most comprehensive biomedical optics meeting in the field and featured sessions and presentations on topics from diagnostics and therapeutics to new imaging modalities. The students—Aaron Codrington ’25, Akshat Jain ’26, Maya McKone-Sweet ’26, and Zi Xiong ’24—submitted abstracts and presented work on three different research projects that they collaborated on through HEAL in the spring and summer 2023.

Fun image of student team with the SPIE conference sign

HEAL Student team at the SPIE Conference 2024. Akshat Jain ’26, Aaron Codrington ’25, Maya McKone-Sweet ’26, and Zi Xiong ’24 pictured from left to right.

“This was my first conference, and it was so big that it was almost overwhelming,” says Jain, a computer engineering major who presented on a device that better measures oxygen saturation in people with higher melanin concentration to address racial bias in pulse oximetry. “But we got to meet a lot of new people, including a number of colleagues that Chhavi had pre-arranged for us to meet, as well as others who are also doing work in similar fields.”

McKone-Sweet and Codrington presented on creating and using uterine tissue-mimicking optical phantoms to better represent different skin tones, genders, and body types. This is an understudied area of research that the students are making a significant contribution to. 

“In our initial studies, we were looking for existing research papers about phantoms for uterine tissue and only found four over the last 30 years,” says Codrington, who is pursuing a bioengineering (E:Bio) concentration. “It’s really cool to be adding to a sector of research that isn’t being done but should be, as well as adding to wider diversity conversations in the biomedical and healthcare spaces.”

Xiong presented the third poster on a photoacoustic imaging system for more noninvasive diagnosis of endometriosis in patients with uteruses. This work was also done at HEAL in the spring and summer of 2023.

Students at SPIE Conference

Students at the SPIE Conference Expo.

“I really liked presenting the poster because you can talk to people more in-depth and answer their individual questions on the topic,” says Xiong, who also attended the SPIE Optics + Photonics conference in August of last year. “A lot of people really appreciated the work we’re doing on female reproductive health research and wish they had the same opportunity when they were undergraduates."

Chhavi Goenka, Assistant Professor of Engineering.

At HEAL, we think about diseases that haven’t been looked at or that we can look at in a different way,

By including projects that encourage students to think about medical technology as they put their skills to work, we can impact the future of biomedical engineering.

Chhavi Goenka

Assistant Professor of Engineering

The students’ trip was funded by one of Olin’s Student Academic Grants (SAG), which offers financial support to attend conferences, conduct independent research, and to stimulate and facilitate innovative research and educational initiatives.

“This kind of funding is so important because it makes attending conferences affordable and accessible to more students,” says McKone-Sweet. “These opportunities offer a lot of benefits to us, from academic growth to valuable networking.”

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