Another Wavelength: Kelli Kiekens

    Date Posted: 
    Tuesday, October 20, 2020

    This month in Another Wavelength, we chat with 5th year Ph.D. Student Kelli Kiekens. Kelli is currently mentored by Jennifer Barton.

    Where are you from?

    I am originally from the northwest suburbs of Chicago (Palatine, IL). I moved to Ann Arbor MI for college and stayed there for a few years after graduating before coming to school here.

    What brought you to study optics?

    My undergraduate degree was in Electrical Engineering, so Electro-Magnetic waves have always been part of my studies. I am a very hands on/visual learner, so optics provided a way to see the results of these interfering waves in a way that made sense to me. After graduation, I spent one year building fiber optic lasers, then another two years fixing spectrometers. I knew that optics was my career path, so I decided to take the leap and come back to school to learn more about it. 



    Who is your hero in science?

    Nikola Tesla. His design of AC electrical systems has stood the test of time and is crucial to everyone's daily lives.

    Describe your research in 20 words or fewer.

    I build endoscopes that are as small as a piece of pencil lead for ovarian cancer detection.

    Describe your research in 200 words or fewer.

    Screenings for cancer plays a critical part in early detection leading to more effective treatment and overall better outcome for patients. Unfortunately, many cancers do not currently have adequate screening mechanisms. We have designed and built an endoscope that is small enough and flexible enough to navigate through the fallopian tubes to image the ovaries and inside the fallopian tube using multiple imaging techniques which have been shown to be able to detect cancer. This endoscope has reflectance imaging, for real time viewing for navigation inside the body. Fluorescence imaging to see changes in the amount of autofluorescence of the tissue. Optical Coherence Tomography provides a cross sectional view of the tissue, similar to what you would see with ultrasound, but with much better resolution. We are ready to begin clinical trials and hope many women will benefit from this research.

    Name three neat facts about you.

    1. I have been a competitive amateur ballroom dancer for almost 10 years.
    2. I have a 1991 Mazda Miata that had not been operational for a few years. This summer I was able to get it running again, I had a great time and learned a lot!
    3. My favorite sports teams are the Chicago Cubs (Baseball) and the Las Vegas Golden Knights (Hockey).