Electrical Engineers Enhance Optical Coherence Tomography Capabilities

Loyola Marymount University engineers are working to enhance an ultrafast imaging technology designed to examine living tissue in near real time, and a graduate student has devised a way to double the size of the sample that can be imaged without increasing the system complexity.

The technology is Optical Coherence Tomography, or OCT. It takes volumetric images of tissue without harming the patient, creating images with a pulse laser moving through an area of the body.

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Graduate student, Max Hushahn (left) and Dr. Hossein Asghari (right) working together in the lab.

Electrical engineering graduate student Max Hushahn came up with the idea of adding a second probe to capture an image of a larger area. The tricky part is that he devised a way to do it and process the mountain of extra data without slowing down the system.

“OCT is like an MRI but much faster, so the dynamic actions inside the tissue are actually visible,” said Hossein Asghari, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science and Hushahn’s thesis advisor. “Imagine if we had an imaging system where you could see the brain’s neurons interact with each other in real time like a movie!”

“Max’s contribution of adding a second camera can also help to raise the resolution of the images,” said Asghari. “With this innovation, we should be able to add a third and fourth camera.”

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Max Hushahn working with lab equipment.

Hushahn gets a charge out of another discovery he made to get a broken oscilloscope—a piece of equipment that costs several hundred thousand dollars—working. While fiddling with it in the lab, he discovered a way to make it work that has now been integrated into the lab’s work.

“Max started as an LMU undergrad. He’s an expert now,” said Asghari. “His senior project was in optics, and he decided to stay with us for a master’s degree. This type of work is typically done by post-docs or Ph.D.s.”

“We’re very close to the edge of science,” said Asghari.

“It’s really cool to have come so far from knowing nothing to having the opportunity to work with world records,” said Hushahn. “I’ve been able to learn a lot, achieve a lot.”

Hushahn, a classical pianist who trained at The Colburn School of Music in downtown Los Angeles, became interested in recording and audio engineering while in high school. Studying electrical engineering seemed to make sense after an aborted run at studying audio engineering, and he made the transition with the help of LMU faculty and the university’s resources.

The 24-year-old has an offer to work in radar simulation at Raytheon.