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The Washington Research Foundation Fellowship

Student Experiences

Pavan Vaswani - Computer Science, Biochemistry

Pavan's Project - "Non-Invasive Determination of Intracranial Pressure by Means of Vibroacoustography"

Elevated intracranial pressure, the pressure on the brain in the skull, is associated with many neurological conditions. Currently, pressure measurements are made by drilling a hole in the skull and inserting a small pressure transducer.

Pavan Vaswani

We seek to replace this invasive method. Vibrating brain tissue noninvasively with High Intensity Focused Ultrasound can be used to determine the tissue's resonant frequency, which serves as an indicator tissue stiffness, which is expected to be correlated with brain pressure.
Stiffer tissue is expected to have a higher resonant frequency and be under higher pressure; and softer tissue is expected to have a lower resonant frequency and be under lower pressure.

When, how, & why did you get involved in research?

During the Summer of 2005, before my freshman year, I began working with Kenny Matsuoka in ESS, developing a system for radar profiling of glacial ice. I enjoy research – it usually seems to be the largest contributor to my education at the UW – and want to do research as a career, so I started as soon as I could.

For me, one of the most exciting parts of research is that 'It works!' moment. I would argue it beats out the 'Eureka!' moment. At the Eureka stage, one has a great idea, something to work with or work from to accomplish a task; but, as we all know, research isn't always so straightforward - it takes time, effort, and a little bit of luck to take an idea from conception to product. The first time things work - when you've had the first Eureka moments, and several more along the way to fix the little bugs that come up - is momentously exciting and rewarding.

What advice would you give to other student?

First: Do research! Its worth doing in more ways than one.

If you're worried about being qualified: you have nothing to worry about. You learn almost everything you need to know in the lab. If you're worried about time: start over the summer - its a good time to get situated in a lab and get a feel for it, without a school workload. If you're worried about finding a lab: Ask around! Knock on doors! Professors are generally nice. Also - talk to advisors in your current/prospective department. They will be able to point you in the right direction.

Second: Do research!!! Its genuinely fun to do, an excellent complement to classes, and a good way to get in touch with professors and professionals to get a feel for what your field is really like.

Future Plans

I plan to pursue an MD.PhD. after completing my undergraduate degrees in Computer Science and Biochemistry. I hope to pursue a career medical research after I graduate.


Without the excellent researchers, professors, and mentors we have at the UW, undergraduate research wouldn't be what it is. So,

Thank you: Pierre Mourad, Kenny Matsuoka, and Twit Conway, my research mentors, for EVERYTHING; Tracy Maschman-Morrissey and Janice DeCosmo, for their continual support and encouragement; Jennifer Taggart and Michael Heinekey, for their excellent teaching and support.

Awards and Honors

  • Summer Undergraduate Research Program
  • Research Fellow for Advanced Undergraduates
  • UW Nominee for the 2007 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship


  • UW Undergraduate Research Symposium 2006
  • Summer Undergraduate Research Program Symposium 2005, 2006
  • Northwest Glaciology Conference 2005
  • 2006 High School – College Conference 2006