Helping Astronauts Back on Earth

I received an email in early May from GE Global Research regarding a summer internship position in Niskayuna, NY – an email that was both unexpected and very exciting. After an interview and a few anxious days of waiting, I was ecstatic to learn that I had been selected for a 14-week internship in the Biomedical Image Analysis Lab. As a graduate student whose research concentration is in medical image analysis, my goal was to work for a leading company in the medical imaging industry, so that I could interact and connect with the brightest minds in the field. And because I was in the final phase of my graduate studies and had just begun to seek jobs in the industry, the timing of this internship could not have come at a better time.

During my first week, I learned that I was going to work on a research project funded externally by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) and that I would be working with the project principal investigator Aaron Dentinger from the Ultrasound Systems Lab, and Kedar Patwardhan from the Biomedical Image Analysis Lab.

It has been observed that crew members returning to Earth from the International Space Station experience visual impairment and problems from intracranial pressure. This research focuses on the development of new volumetric ultrasound imaging methods that will provide vital information to understand the reasons for these problems. Specific applications for these new ultrasound imaging methods include enhancing existing ocular measurements, and developing new measurement methods and visualization tools for monitoring longitudinal changes in ocular characteristics and elevated intracranial pressure.

The potential applications for this proposed research extend far beyond in-flight monitoring of crew members to important clinical problems, such as monitoring patients with traumatic brain injury. The new data acquisition will be developed on two levels. The first is by optimizing existing volumetric ultrasound probe designs for ophthalmic imaging and the second is by integrating the probe on the GE Vivid portable cardiovascular ultrasound system currently used on the international space station.


Moving the wheels of mankind
As an engineer, it is always very satisfying to work on state-of-the-art technology that benefits and moves the wheels of mankind. The International Space Station is one of the greatest engineering marvels in the history of mankind. So being able to work on a project that could be integrated into the space station is truly gratifying. I also feel very lucky and honored to be part of a project that positively impacts the health and quality of lives of the returning astronauts.

Over the course of my internship, I have applied the skills I developed in school to solve challenging problems and in the process, have improved and strengthened those skills. My desire to interact with the brightest minds in the field has more than been realized. Members of my lab have provided me an in-depth overview of the wide range of applications for medical image analysis. Each project I was introduced to felt equally, if not more fascinating than the previous one. I have had invaluable tutorial sessions in the Ultrasound Laboratory on the different types of ultrasound probes, image acquisition modes, and probe design. Ultrasound imaging comprises a good part of my PhD dissertation. Having hands-on experience in ultrasound imaging research and development has been extremely beneficial.

I have also toured various labs at Global Research across technology domains, giving me a better understanding of, and appreciation for, the breadth of technology that GE is involved in. I have attended networking sessions where people from various departments interacted with the interns and shared the career paths they had taken. I was truly surprised – and greatly appreciated – the genuine effort the Company made to educate interns about the research center’s organization and technological reach.

I was surrounded by highly intellectual individuals and deep domain experts in the interdependent and interdisciplinary field of Clinical Systems and Signal Processing, and appreciated their accessibility and willingness to collaborate. Knowing what I do now, I understand why GE is capable of designing and manufacturing large scale, highly complex products that have tremendous impact in their respective fields. I do not think there are many companies in the world with similar human resources.

I have gained invaluable knowledge and technological know-how during my internship. The experience has boosted my confidence and I am certain that it will not only aid me in completing my graduate studies but also help lay a strong foundation for my career. I would like to thank all the people at Global Research who have helped make this internship such a wonderful and powerful experience.

Vikas Revanna Shivaprabhu is a PhD candidate in the Bioengineering department at the University of Pittsburgh and a visiting student scholar at the Robotics Institute, Carnegie Melon University. His research interests include development, implementation, validation and analysis of computer vision and image analysis algorithms using software engineering and scientific tools and practices applied in the medical domain to enable preventative and therapeutic strategies for various diseases.



  1. prakash


  2. Sunil

    Awesome. Way to go.