Published: May 9, 2022 By

Jair Castillo

Jair Castillo, PhD student

Jair Castillo is a PhD student studying ultrasound molecular imaging in Professor Mark Borden’s lab. His goal is to help improve preventative healthcare to detect diseases like cancer in the early stages – giving patients better outcomes.

What brought you to the University of Colorado Boulder and attracted you to the Biomedical Engineering Program? 

I was attracted by the high quality of research being done at CU Boulder. I also liked how the BME program allows you to tailor the classes you need to take towards your research interests. There is only one requirement and everything else is up to you to decide.

Please briefly explain the research you are doing in Professor Borden’s lab. 

My research focuses on the area of imaging. More specifically, ultrasound molecular imaging. Basically, I engineer functionalized microbubbles with a gas core that can target a specific receptor in the endothelium. Once flowing in the bloodstream, part of these bubbles attaches to their receptor and remain static for some time while the rest keep flowing. Due to the physical properties of microbubbles, which oscillate when exposed to an ultrasound field, they generate a backscattered energy which is then picked up by the ultrasound transducer. This generates enhanced images with better resolution and contrast. There are many potential applications, such as early detection of cancer, microinflammation and atherosclerosis, among others. 

What inspired you to pursue imaging research? 

After graduation from college with a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering, I worked in the medical device industry for several years. However, I always found myself wanting to explore new ideas on my own, which is sometimes limited in industry. So, I decided to pursue a PhD since I believe it fosters creativity and promotes the development of new ideas, projects and knowledge. Also, I like teaching, so my goal is to become a professor.  

How would you like your work to help society? 

I believe in preventive healthcare, specifically trying to prevent the development of a disease by diagnosing it early. That's the reason I am mainly focusing on diagnostics rather than therapeutics. I would like to improve current techniques and approaches that would help doctors detect diseases, such as cancer, at its very early stages where patients can have higher probabilities of a favorable outcome. The reason I love ultrasound is because it's noninvasive, cost-effective, portable and readily available almost everywhere. 

What’s your favorite part about being a Buff? 

I love the city of Boulder. The weather is great and is an awesome place to develop personally, with many outdoor activities readily available all year. Also, the Buff community is the best. There are a lot of resources available for students to succeed in their academic career, classes offered here are top-notch and the campus is beautiful. My favorite part of being a Buff is, well, being a Buff!

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