Post-Defense Interview: Adriana Orland

A research project or thesis exploring a question related to the field of biomedical visualization is one aspect of completing a Masters in Biomedical Visualization here at UIC. This original investigation enables greater insight into scholarship, understanding of the research process, and emphasizes original and critical thinking. Graduate students complete a written proposal, final research or thesis paper, give a final oral presentation and defense which all enable a student to develop advanced communication skills. This year, we are sitting down with our graduate students after their final defense for a quick chat about them and their research.

This past week, Adriana Orland defended her project research: “Animating External Magnetic Guidance of Intrathecally Delivered Gold-Coated Nanoparticles to Treat Intramedullary Spinal Tumors.


Adriana Orland

Taking a page from, how would you describe your research in one sentence?

Adriana: Battling Spinal Tumors with Magnets and Gold Spheres

Wow, sounds interesting! How does that work?

Basically, it means that neurosurgeons are able to inject nanoparticles (gold spheres) into your spine that carry drugs to the tumor. The nanoparticles are directed where to go by the external magnets.

Can you explain how you came to choose this topic? What was it that first interested you about it?

Since college, the study of neuroscience has intrigued me, so I jumped at the chance of working with a neurosurgeon when my advisor mentioned the possibility. The neurosurgeon’s research was already well established, so I joined his team as the animator tasked with bringing his innovative idea to future grant committee/neurosurgery researchers in an understandable manner. The new technique that he is a part of is truly on the cutting edge of the field and knowing that my animation is taking part in guiding the future of neuroscience excites me.

Did your advisor introduce you to a neurosurgeon? Can you tell us a bit about him?

Yes, my advisor did connect me with Dr. Mehta. Dr. Mehta is a Neurosurgeon and Assistant Professor in the Neurosurgery Department at UIC. For being a neurosurgeon, he is very responsive. Any question I had, I didn’t hesitate to email Dr. Mehta. He would respond within the day. It has been quite the privilege to work with someone who is so supportive and knows what he wants.

 What theories or theoretical framework is your study based on?

The project was based on Richard Mayer’s Theory of Multimedia Learning which emphasizes the use of two channels (auditory and visual) to better commit the content to memory. Furthermore, I focused on cognitive load to make sure the animation was logical and didn’t overstimulate the viewer.

What were the results from your study?

The six participants from Dr. Mehta’s Neurosurgery Lab replied positively towards the animation comprehension, the animation pace, and the organization and effectiveness of visuals paired with narrative in the animation. Unfortunately, they found the animation to be too simple for a grant committee, which was my intended audience.

What was your favorite stage during the completion of your research project?

I loved setting up the camera motion throughout the animation. The way you move the camera is the true foundation of the new world you are creating. One wrong angle and the message may be lost. The precision and focus it takes to optimize the camera movements for the benefit of the user is thrilling.

What would you do differently if you were setting out to do it today?

I would spend more time thinking through how to develop certain scenes. What comes to mind is the last scene of my animation where gold-coated nanoparticles cross the innermost layer of the spinal cord (pia) and reach the tumor. More time could have been devoted to really getting those effects working. Also, I would choose an easier title. One that people could actually read in one breath!

What have you learned the most from your research project?

The use of nanoparticles in drug delivery and how to better navigate through 3ds Max. This project pushed me out of my comfort zone especially when it came down to modeling and animating the procedure. Prior to this all other projects, were minuscule in scale.

What would be the next step(s) for you if you were to continue with this research?

The next step would be to test this animation on more individuals who are not associated with the research. While, getting feedback from Dr. Mehta’s Neurosurgery Lab was valuable and helped to improve the study, it is necessary to see how the animation is perceived by those not familiar with the technique.

What are you most excited for after graduation from UIC BVIS?

I’m most excited to devote more time to learning and becoming more comfortable in developing content for HTC Vive and Oculus. Granted, after I have time to catch up on sleep and recuperate from this tough final semester!




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