Engineering PhD student receives NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program award

Dartmouth School of Graduate and Advanced Studies

April 5, 2017

The National Science Foundation (NSF) last week announced 2,000 recipients of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) award. From more than 13,000 applicants, three graduate students at Dartmouth were among the awardees. Jim Lewis, NSF acting assistant director for Education and Human Resources said of the recipients "These talented individuals have gone on to make important discoveries, win Nobel Prizes, train many generations of American scientists and engineers and create inventions that improve our lives."

The Dartmouth graduate recipients of 2017 NSF GRFP awards are:

Ethan LaRochelle
On the seventh-floor of the Williamson Translational Research Building, PhD candidate Ethan Larochelle, front, and Professor Scott Davis, back, use the dosimeter imaging system, which measures the dose of photodynamic therapy (PDT) — a treatment that uses special drugs, called photosensitizing agents, along with light to kill cancer cells.

LaRochelle has focused his research on developing medical imaging technologies. Over the past year he has helped develop a multi-spectral imaging system that could be used in dermatology clinics to assess the efficacy of photodynamic therapy (PDT), which uses light to activate a compound capable of treating pre-cancerous lesions. "My future research will focus on similar imaging technologies, but with the aim of characterizing immune responses occurring within the tumor interstitium, where current imaging and sampling capabilities are extremely limited," states LaRochelle.

As an undergraduate, LaRochelle studied electrical and biomedical engineering at Northeastern University where he completed research at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Draper Laboratory, and BAE Systems through the cooperative learning programs. He was also heavily involved with the student chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and traveled to Honduras on three separate occasions working with communities to design and install water distribution systems.

Most recently, LaRochelle has worked with the Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC) in partnership with ACTS and the community of El Rosario to help bring cancer screenings and follow-up care to this rural region. Over the past year he has worked with medical practitioners in Honduras and at Dartmouth-Hitchcock to identify and test ways technology can be used to conduct high-throughput screenings so those at highest risk for developing cancer can get the care they need. "While this work is tangential to the work I do as part of my research in the Pogue lab, I often view my experiences in Honduras as a way to look at problems from a new perspective," asserts LaRochelle. "Through my collaborations with medical professionals in the developing world I hope to identify needs I can address through my primary research focus."

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