Wyant College Students Selected for NSF GRFP Program

April 17, 2023
congrats to daigle and deshler

Two Wyant College students were selected for the 2023 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). This program, "ensure(s) the quality, vitality, and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States. GRFP seeks to broaden participation in science and engineering of underrepresented groups, including women, minorities, persons with disabilities, and veterans. The five-year fellowship provides three years of financial support inclusive of an annual stipend of $37,000." Ph.D. students Noelle Daigle, advised by Dr. Travis Sawyer as part of the BOOM lab, and Nico Deshler, advised by Dr. Amit Ashok were among those selected for this year's awards.

Noelle Daigle

Tell us more about your proposal and your research:


The title of my proposal was "Multiphoton and fluorescence laparoscope applied to surgical localization of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors." This project aims to develop a multimodal laparoscope for tumor detection using multiphoton microscopy and fluorescence imaging techniques. The specific type of cancer I'm looking at is pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PNETs), although this device design can be easily adapted to target other tissue types for highly specific in vivo imaging. PNETs are often difficult for surgeons to remove because current methods of intraoperative guidance are low resolution, such as ultrasound, or low specificity, such as fluorescence guidance alone. This is particularly true for small or multifocal pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, pushing surgeons to perform more demolitive resections than are necessary. While fluorescence guidance has been used for intraoperative guidance before, our laparoscope design is unique in its use of multiphoton microscopy for microscopic tumor localization and margin definition. 

What's next for you?

This award will help financially support me during the next three years as I finish my degree, and give me the freedom to pursue my research without having to worry about funding.

We are planning to publish more results from this project within the year on preliminary work testing multiphoton microscopy's suitability for imaging PNETs.

Who would you like to thank?

I would like to thank the members of the BOOM lab and my advisor Dr. Travis Sawyer for all their help and support they've given me so far.

Nico Deshler

Tell us more about your proposal and your research:

Nico Deshler Headshot

Light is a quantum phenomenon. As a result, many of the traditional imaging limitations derived from a classical theory are not fundamental. Some traditional limits can in fact be surpassed by leveraging quantum properties of light. My thesis work seeks to develop computational imaging systems that use quantum measurements of the optical field to optimally extract task-specific information about a scene and surpass classical limits. Under the guidance of my advisor, Professor Amit Ashok, I have been working to fold compressive sensing theory into Bayesian quantum parameter estimation to resolve distributed incoherent scenes beyond the diffraction limit of an optical system. This work seeks to leverage both the compressibility of natural signals and the information-bearing properties of photons. We are currently developing a quantum receiver protocol that adaptively updates the measurement operator over the course of the photon collection period to converge to a scene-dependent optima.

What's next for You?

The GRFP award graciously affords greater flexibility and agency over the research projects I choose to explore during my graduate career. Currently, I think there are a number of interesting open questions on how to design information-optimal quantum measurement protocols for parameter estimation. Additionally, an aspirational project I have been excited by is the prospect of integrating quantum imaging methods with gravitational lensingsuch a system would leverage optical phenomena from the two most profound theories of physics: Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity. This is a project that would otherwise be challenging to pursue without the support of the GRFP as it does not lend itself immediately to any application. Another way I hope to capitalize on the flexibility afforded by the GRFP is by broadening the educational impact of the OSC department. In particular, I hope to source bite-size videos from students within the college wherein they describe their own research projects or interesting technical material that they can explain in accessible terms. These videos would be hosted on a public domain to stimulate external collaborations and engage future generations of researchers.

Who would you like to thank?

There are many people to whom I owe my deepest gratitude for inspiring and supporting me throughout my scientific career. Thank you first to my family. To my sister, Valen, whose thought-provoking wisdom and exceptional sense of humor have often left me in a paradoxical state of deep contemplation and uncontrollable laughter. To my mama and my dad, you two have simultaneously been my greatest source of encouragement and inspiration. Thank you for instilling an ethic that champions slow thinking, curiosity, and integrity. To my partner, Lola, you have shown me that people, like plants, are always growing. Thank you for always sharing your infectious excitement, your profound introspection, and for constantly supporting me with immense selflessness. I hope I can be as present for you as you have been for me. Thank you to my friends, colleagues, and professors in the OSC department and beyond. It is an honor to learn from and work with such brilliant and fascinating people. The positivity and excitement you each imbue our college with is a constant source of motivation for me. Last but certainly not least, thank you to my advisor Professor Ashok, who has inspired me with his capacity to distill ideas to their essence and who has always shown me deep respect and understanding as I puzzle through challenges in research and beyond.