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Michelle Hua

Michelle Hua

2022 Davidson Fellow
$10,000 Scholarship

Age: 18
Hometown: Troy, MI

Engineering: “3D Acoustic Simulation and Optimization Algorithms for Transcranial Focused Ultrasound Delivered with Stereotactic Robotics”

About Michelle

My name is Michelle Hua, and I'm an incoming first-year student at Harvard College. As a student researcher, I have explored my passions in computer science and biomedical engineering through my research pursuits and participation in science fairs and conferences. Beyond my endeavors in scientific research, I am also a competitive rhythmic gymnast (the sport with hula-hoops and twirling ribbons). I was a silver medalist in the 2022 USA Gymnastics Championships, a national level 10 gymnast, and the co-captain of my team. Besides working on research and practicing gymnastics, you can find me traveling, spending time with friends, and enjoying all different kinds of food!

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"To me, being a Davidson Fellow is an honor and an opportunity to inspire and to be inspired. I can't wait to share my work with all the other fellows as well as learn about their fascinating research. As a group, I hope we can also inspire other young students to pursue their passions in science."

Project Description

My project is a simulation, optimization, and automatic delivery system for a biomedical device called transcranial focused ultrasound (FUS). Since human skulls are heterogeneous and vary from patient to patient, it is vital that FUS waves are properly simulated and optimized to deliver patient-specific treatments—whether it's for neurodegenerative disease therapy, drug delivery improvement, or thermoablation of tumors. My simulation and optimization algorithms are further integrated into a surgical robot to automatically deliver FUS treatments. The novel end-to-end framework achieves a sub-millimeter accuracy for FUS delivery and has the potential to make precision medicine accessible to patients all over the world.

Deeper Dive

As a child, lost memories, misplaced car keys, and late stays at my school's aftercare after being forgotten to pick up were a constant reminder of my grandfather's Alzheimer's symptoms. Now as a high school researcher, I am motivated to investigate treatments for the disease that once distanced my loved ones away from me. My research project presents an interdisciplinary approach combining computer science, biomedical engineering, and robotics to automate the treatment of disease and disorders with a surgical robot. Using transcranial focused ultrasound (FUS), a recently emerging therapeutic device that emits ultrasonic energy to target specific areas of the brain for treatment, I developed an end-to-end framework to simulate and optimize FUS transducers for automatic Alzheimer's disease therapy. Not only is this framework relevant to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, but it also has clinical applications in the opening of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) for improved drug delivery, thermal ablation of cancer tumors, and treatment for Essential Tremor, depression, etc.

I began this research project during the 2022 Research Science Institute (RSI) summer program. Each student was assigned to a mentor based on our passions and interests in STEM. After the initial assignment, I independently connected with my mentor to devise and work on a unique research project. I had the opportunity to work at a biotechnology company called Zeta Surgical where I received the resources and support to progress with my project.

With cases of Alzheimer's disease on the rise nationally, my FUS algorithms can help alleviate and treat symptoms of various of these neurodegenerative diseases. It also has the potential to augment drug therapy by precisely targeting areas of the BBB. With the help of microbubbles, FUS temporarily increases the permeability of the BBB, allowing the passage of drug molecules to desired areas of the brain; this treatment can be used with any drug for any disease, greatly improving the chances of curing disease and increasing the likelihood of patient survival. Currently, FUS is being researched in clinical trials and shows great potential in treating mental illnesses such as clinical depression and bipolar disorder. My automatic and precise robot-assisted placement and delivery of FUS helps make all these treatments more accessible to people around the nation and around the world. I would like to replicate my FUS algorithm and surgical robot to create real-world products that can be utilized by hospitals for diverse medical treatments from cancer therapy to treatment for depression. My framework for modeling the skull and simulating FUS can be further explored for different therapeutic devices to expand their positive impact on the world. Overall, my novel acoustic simulation and optimization of transcranial FUS is a precise method for carrying out a diverse array of medical treatments that can bring various positive benefits to human life.


What is your favorite Olympic sport?

Rhythmic gymnastics, of course!! Can’t betray a sport I’ve been involved in since I was seven years old.

What is your favorite tradition or holiday?

Celebrating New Year’s! Whether it’s with friends or family, watching the clock hit midnight of a new year is always exciting!

What movie or show have you seen lately that you would recommend?

Chang An (长安三万里 / Chang An San Wan Li / 30000 Miles From Chang An), which I watched while on vacation in China! It’s a beautiful animated film telling the stories behind great Tang Dynasty poets and the history of Chang An, the capital city of China in the Tang Dynasty.

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In The News

Detroit – The Davidson Fellows Scholarship Program has announced the 2023 scholarship winners. Among the honorees is 18-year-old Michelle Hua of Troy. Hua won a $10,000 scholarship for her project, 3D Acoustic Simulation and Optimization Algorithms for Transcranial Focused Ultrasound Delivered with Stereotactic Robotics. She is one of only 21 students across the country to be recognized as a 2023 scholarship winner.

Download the full press release here