Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Biomedical Engineer

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Biomedical Engineer

Article excerpt

Work overview.

My current focus is Second Sight's new product, called Orion. Most blindness involves damage to the optic nerve, which carries signals from the eyes to the brain. Orion will bypass the optic nerve by directly stimulating the visual cortex. This will hopefully restore vision to all blind patients. We have recently begun clinical trials, implanting the device in volunteers. We will follow up with them for a year or so, collecting and analyzing data about how the device is performing.

I am actively involved in the product's design and development. I meet with the team at least once a week to discuss design issues, regulatory applications, and how the trials are going. This product builds on the 20 years of work that went into the earlier Argus system. We first reviewed the literature to see what had previously been tried in this area. Then we determined how to modify the Argus to stimulate the brain instead of just the retina; it requires more electrical current and different device geometry. Previous brain-stimulation devices sometimes caused seizures, but we hypothesized that we could avoid that through better control of the stimulation.

We are a public company, so I am also involved with investor relations--reporting our results on quarterly conference calls and meeting with analysts and investors. I also manage our patent portfolio, talk with physician customers, and sometimes give talks about our technology at conferences.

Career highlights.

After working on this for so many years, the day we presented data about our clinical trials for the Argus product to an FDA panel of about 20 clinicians and other specialists was extraordinary. There was a lot of debate about safety, but in the end, the panel voted unanimously to approve the device.

Career path.

I was interested in computers, electronics, and ham radio as a teen. I wrote software, played computer games, and worked on some small, independent projects, including a device that flashed a light in response to a ringing telephone, so a deaf person would know when the phone was ringing. That got me interested in using engineering to help people.

After high school I improved my technical skills by enrolling in a part-time vocational training program, where I learned how to fix radios and other equipment. …

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