Page 74 - Summer 2020
P. 74

ASK AN ACOUSTICIAN
as much as possible. When I reached 5 feet 1 inch in height, my dad informed me that I was now too tall to be a jockey. I then thought I would be a veterinarian because I loved animals and wanted to be around them as much as possible. I had the opportunity to spend the day with a veterinarian and decided that I would have pets but not be their doctor as the idea of putting an animal down at the end of its life (I was 17) was unappealing. Loving high-school math and physics and not loving biology led me to electrical engineering at the Pennsylvania State University (University Park). I am a Penn Stater through and through. I did my bachelor’s and master’s in elec- trical engineering (EE) and finally a PhD in acoustics there. I enjoyed EE but realized that I wanted a career doing something medically related without becoming a doctor. A friend and mentor directed me to the Graduate Program in Acoustics, and when I looked into the pro- gram and professors, I found that I could do my degree in acoustics and specialize in medical ultrasound. Some of the influential mentors who helped shaped my path were my MS and PhD thesis advisors, Russell Philbrick and Kirk Shung, as well as many acoustics professors including Anthony Atchley and Doug Mast. I can’t praise the Acoustics Program at Penn State enough. The pro- fessors all love acoustics and really motivate students to appreciate not just the science and math but the amaz- ing breadth and importance of the field. The subject of my PhD dissertation was measuring the backscatter of biological tissues at high frequencies (>10 MHz). I then did a postdoctoral fellowship at Brigham & Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA) in the Radiology Department. My postdoctoral supervi- sor was Kullervo Hynynen, who was also an influential mentor who helped me forge my career path to the FDA. The subject of my postdoctoral work was investigating HIFU-induced bioeffects in biological media. I injected glass catfish (they are small fish with nearly transparent bodies and a visible vascular structure) with ultrasound microbubbles and monitored vessel destruction at HIFU output levels. After my postdoc, I joined the FDA and have been there since.
What is a typical day for you?
A typical day involves some administrative work (emails and such), either lab work or data processing, and some regulatory consult work. I usually start my day around 8 a.m. and earlier if I’m doing experiments. Over time, I’ve tried to become better about keeping my workday
organized and have found that a day planner really helps. I try to document what I do during the day, and I find that it really helps me manage my time more efficiently.
How do you feel when experiments/projects do not work out the way you expected
them to?
That depends on whether the outcome was positive or not. If positive, it’s delightful because that means the work turned out better than expected. Otherwise, disap- pointed, but then I try to figure out a better way to tackle the problem. There’s always another way to approach a problem. The solution can be either to improve the exper- imental setup (which is often the case) or to reevaluate my current methodology. Sometimes it is as simple as changing the material used to hold an absorbing target that will allow for more stability during experiments. It always helps to talk to colleagues about a problem. Many problems are identified when talking things through with another person. This is as true in personal life as it is in professional life. Asking for help sometimes is the answer.
Do you feel like you have solved the work-life balance problem? Was it always this way?
I have studied a style of Indian classical dance called Kuchipudi since I was a child. I continued dancing as an adult in a semiprofessional capacity, performing solo and with my teacher’s dance troupe in the United States, India, and Canada. I now run a dance school and teach mostly on weekends but some weekday evenings as well. I do sometimes think that I work all the time, but honestly, I love both my day job and side hustle so much that I can’t imagine my life any other way. However, even when you love what you do, you still need to take care of yourself. I think I do that better now by checking in with myself every day rather than just autopilot through all the things I have to do. I take breaks when I need and am better at maintaining a reasonable schedule of work time, dance time, and me time.
What makes you a good acoustician?
I hope I’m a good acoustician. I certainly strive to be a good acoustician and researcher. I love acoustics. I’m in awe of how much acoustics encompasses. I respect the field and the people who work in this area. I feel like I still have so much to learn and enjoy doing that. I love finding acoustics in things other than my work. I enjoy Indian classical dance, yoga, Sanskrit, and meditation, and there
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