Senior Mariam Hasan is a biomedical engineer, designer, artist, and activist. Her work and research focus on innovative ways to use technology for social good.
Hasan’s main research is on using novel focused ultrasound (FUS) technology to address health disparities. By collaborating with engineers at Malawi University of Science and Technology, Hasan is leading a project to realize a FUS Center of Excellence there, which if successful, will be the first FUS research location on the continent of Africa.
“Specifically, my work is with histotripsy, which is the first completely non-invasive, non-ionizing, non-thermal, and image-guided breast cancer tumor ablation modality,” said Hasan, who will receive her biomedical engineering degree this week. “Due to its non-invasive nature, histotripsy and other FUS technologies have the potential to overcome many of the barriers to cancer therapy in low-resource countries, helping to improve patient outcomes for breast cancer, and many other applications.”
With the guidance of Eli Vlaisavljevich in the Therapeutic Ultrasound and Noninvasive Therapies Laboratory, Hasan has spent the past year creating more portable, low-cost histotripsy systems.
In addition to her research in FUS technology, Hasan has worked on various passion projects during her time at Virginia Tech.
This past January, she hosted a data-driven exhibition at the Armory Gallery in downtown Blacksburg. By intersecting research and art with the Black Lives Matter movement, Hasan’s exhibition visually guided audiences through the racialized health disparities of the COVID-19 pandemic and the social conditions that have caused them. As a solo project, Hasan sought out mentorship from a variety of disciplines, including visual artists, biostatisticians, sociologists, and historians.
She also was involved with a project titled “BioTech Couture,” a transdisciplinary collaboration between visual artists, biomedical engineers, and industrial designers to integrate biosensor technology with high fashion with the goal of bridging the gap between art and health technology. The project resulted in a collection of couture dresses with embedded biosensor technology, electroluminescence wire, and servo motors, which were featured in the Institute of Creativity, Arts, and Technology’s Creativity + Innovation’s runway show.
Hasan’s extensive undergraduate student pursuits exemplify transdisciplinary collaboration, social responsibility, and experiential learning, which are core values of the Honors College. As a result, she has been named the 2022 Outstanding Honors College Senior.
“We are proud to have Mariam represent both her classmates and the Honors College through this recognition,” said Paul Knox, founding dean of the Virginia Tech Honors College. “She has taken full advantage of the opportunities afforded to honors students and her achievements have been truly transdisciplinary in nature.”
As a first-year student at Virginia Tech, Hasan didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do. Hasan grew up often watching her father, who was a mechanic, repair and tinker with cars. She soon began to tinker herself and discovered a joy for fixing or improving things around the house.
Although she was also interested in the idea of pursuing a career in health care and neuroscience, Hasan decided to initially major in engineering because of her innate passion to create and work with tech.
“I picked engineering because I like making and designing [technical] things. Honestly, when I first came here, I didn’t know biomedical engineering was an option.” said Hasan. “I really thought I was going to be designing cars.”
Hasan didn’t realize how all her interests would come together until she enrolled in studio-based Honors College courses.
“When I took SuperStudio and Studio+, those were the first experiences I had to actually make things and think about what I’m doing in a global context outside of just me working on a circuit or solving math problems. That’s when I really started enjoying and appreciating what I do, and [realized] the value in engineering,” Hasan said. “In designing for [solving] a problem, I got to appreciate that [process] so much more when applying it through the classes that the Honors College exposed me to.”
From creating a children’s book to educate young people on racial health care disparities to teaming up with Boeing to create an augmented reality-integrated head cap, Hasan merged her passions in unique ways through SuperStudio and Studio+.
During her four years at Virginia Tech, Hasan has served as the vice president for the Engineering World Health at Virginia Tech, the engineering exposition chairperson for the Student Engineer’s Council at Virginia Tech, a student representative for the Biomedical Engineering Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, and a membership enrichment chairperson for the Student Engineers’ Council at Virginia Tech.
Additionally, she completed undergraduate research for the Traumatic Nerve Technologies Lab, Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Socha Laboratory.
Hasan attributes a lot of her academic success to faculty mentorship, especially Honors College faculty and affiliated faculty Nikki Lewis, Paul Heilker, Najla Mouchrek, and Ralph Hall.
“Their support helped me realize that my ideas are not just ideas that can stay in my head. They can actually exist,” Hasan said.
After graduation, Hasan will be attending Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, where she plans to combine her research in place-based health and human-centered medical device development with her intersectional graduate study of health outcomes to investigate the relationship between race, historical redlining, policy, and health.