RVCC Student’s Work Highlighted In International Journal

Research and work by Raritan Valley Community College Engineering Science student Thomas Britton has been highlighted in the January issue of the international medical-technical journal, BioPhotonics.

In the article, “Optical Fibers Illuminate Brain Activity,” the West Amwell resident writes about his work creating a 3D-printed model of his own brain, which he instrumented with optical fibers to illuminate brain activity centers.

“It’s not true that we only use only 10 percent of our brains – everything does something,” says Britton, who became interested in brain function several years ago when he was in a car accident and sustained a head injury. After receiving an MRI, Britton converted the MRI information into a three-dimensional computer model, but he wanted something more tangible. Lacking a 3D printer, Britton built his own. He then 3D-printed his brain and instrumented the brain model with optical fibers that terminated in various brain activity centers. Britton used a digital projector to illuminate the base of the optical fibers with medical 2D brain activity map information. The projector light travelled through the optical fibers to illuminate the 3D model.

Britton first conceived the idea to use optical fiber to illuminate brain activity sensors during the Fall 2015 Semester, while he was enrolled in an Honors Independent Study at RVCC with Dr. Peter Stupak. The Assistant Professor of Physics and Engineering then contacted his former employer, OFS Optics, who sent Britton the optical fiber. Stupak noted that OFS was pleased with the student’s work and asked if the company could share it with the BioPhotonics journal. Britton and Stupak then spent the Fall 2016 Semester writing and editing the paper with OFS Optics.

“Tom is an extraordinarily competent and creative hands-on student. Undeterred by technical challenges that would have stopped most people in their tracks, Tom built a 3D printer from a $200 kit and made a functioning prototype of his 3D-printed “Illuminated Brain” model. His recent publication in BioPhotonics is yet another impressive achievement that we hope will bring him in contact with professional researchers who may open the door for Tom to enter the field as a career,” says Stupak.

Britton, who also received an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Electronics Engineering Technology from Mercer County Community College, plans to pursue a career in additive manufacturing for medical applications. He would like to focus on developing bio-printing techniques integrating optical fiber or light pipes for photo-biomodulation.

For additional information about Britton’s work, visit https://www.photonics.com.