For my master's thesis, I worked in Dr. John Prineas's lab at the University of Iowa. It was my first experience in a real laboratory, and I definitely learned a lot from the experience about how to do science. In the end, it wasn't the area of science and engineering that excited me the most, so after I completed my Master's Degree, I moved on to my new passion, MRI brain imaging.
The overall project was to basically create an artificial pancreas. The pancreas monitors blood glucose (sugar) in the body and controls insulin levels. When control of insulin levels fails, diabetes mellitus will result. Diabetic patients have to constantly monitor their own blood glucose levels to make up for a broken pancreas. This collaborative project at the University of Iowa was to create a continuous glucose sensor and (in the future) an insulin delivery system that would eliminate much of the error and hassle that most diabetic patients have today.
My part of the project was the fabrication and characterization of the semiconductor materials for the detector of the proposed device. That would be the "Detector Array" labeled in the diagram. Working with semiconductor material meant a lot of time spent in windowless labs all by myself with really expensive equipment and an "interesting" wardrobe. That's me on the left.
My thesis investigated the absorption spectrum of the light that was emitted from the LED. The LED is similar to those that you find in many new technologies today, however this one emitted light in the infrared range. This was important because glucose absorbs light in that range. So, the more glucose in the blood, the less light there will be that eventually hits my detector. By monitoring how much light hits the detector, we would be able to determine how much glucose is in the blood and then notify the patient through the external computer.