Graduate Student Highlight: Jennifer-Lynn Demers
Now in her final year of study, current Thayer School of Engineering PhD student Jennifer-Lynn Demers has spent her time as a graduate student at Dartmouth engaged in both her studies and campus organizations. Demers’ research in the Optics in Medicine laboratory under the guidance of Professor Brian Pogue aims to provide molecular information, which can aid in the diagnosis of disease, for example determining the presence of osteoporosis, through the use of image-guided spectroscopy.
Demers’ image-guided spectroscopy system combines the information of various optical signals with the data provided by the images from a Computer Tomography (CT) scan or a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan in order to “directly sample molecular contrast.” This molecular information could allow for the in vivo (without removing from the living body) diagnosis of bone or tissue disorders. Demers has been performing animal model experiments to determine which types of optical signals are the most promising for this application.
Demers is collaborating on this project with researchers at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. As a result, she has spent time performing additional research at the University of Michigan where she can access state-of-the-art equipment, orthopedic surgeons and animal models, to complement the work she has completed here at Dartmouth. According to Demers, researchers at Ann Arbor provide expertise on bone disorders, while individuals on the Dartmouth side of the partnership provide optics research experience.
In addition to her doctoral studies, Demers has served on the Thayer Council where she helped revamp the Research-In-Progress workshop required of all Thayer graduate students. Demers was also president of the Dartmouth Society of Engineers before stepping down this year to focus on her research. Perhaps most notably, Demers spent two years as the Graduate Student Mentor for the Academic Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (ASURE) program run by the Dartmouth Graduate Studies Office.
The ASURE program seeks to introduce undergraduate students from other institutions to the Dartmouth graduate student research experience during the nine weeks of summer term. The program accepted seven students in 2012 and six students in 2013; students represented fields from biology to engineering to psychological and brain sciences. Demers still maintains contact with most of these students and was happy to report that those who have since graduated from their undergraduate institutions have all gone on to submit graduate school applications. Demers values the experience she gained as the ASURE Graduate Student Mentor, and since she will be unable to fill the position for the summer of 2014, she encourages her fellow Dartmouth graduate students to seek out the opportunity.
After Demers is awarded her doctorate (a goal she has had since she was a sophomore in high school), she plans on pursuing a postdoctoral position at a university. Her current plan is to eventually become a professor at a small college. She wants to focus on biomedical research.
The Graduate Forum would like to wish Demers the best of luck on her continuing research and future career path.
by Jacqueline Andreozzi