Doctoral grad makes strides in cancer treatment advances

December 11, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2018 commencement. Read about more graduates

Karthik Subramaniam set out to solve a problem that had never been attempted before. He just didn’t know what that problem was. Karthik Subramaniam Pushpavanam Karthik Subramaniam. Download Full Image

Luckily for him, his graduate advisor, Professor Kaushal Rege, had one ready for him to tackle: to affordably and easily verify the dosage of radiation delivered to cancer patients.

Subramaniam is the recipient of the spring 2019 Dean’s Dissertation Award for his dissertation “Radiation-induced nanoparticle formation as novel means of in vivo/in vitro dosimetry.”

Radiotherapy is one of the most commonly employed forms of treatment for cancer. One of the big challenges during radiation treatment is the ability to verify the radiation dose delivered to the patient.

“Available sensors for radiation dose measurement are either expensive, cumbersome to operate, require trained professionals for operation and/or lack post-irradiation stability,” Subramaniam said. “What we set out to accomplish was to develop a sensor that is easy to fabricate and operate.”

This sensor, upon exposure to radiation, changes color and the change in color is proportional to the amount of radiation the sensor was exposed to.

“What we have accomplished so far, and there is still a long way to go in advancing what we have done, is unique,” said Subramaniam. “That was exciting enough for me to keep on going and pursue this as my thesis work.” 

He won second place in the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Forum poster session at the 2018 American Institute of Chemical Engineering Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh.

One of Subramaniam’s best memories associated with ASU happened before he even arrived on campus.

“It was the moment I received the offer from ASU to pursue a doctoral degree there,” he said. “I still remember as clear as day how happy I was after I got the offer.”

Subramaniam’s passion for engineering started early; his father is a professor of chemical engineering in his native India. That passion steered him toward ASU as he wanted to pursue his own research goals.

“The biggest reason for me to enroll at ASU was the ambition shown by the university to grow and develop into one of the top research-oriented schools in the country,” he says. “Since 2012, when I began my doctoral degree in chemical engineering, the number of faculty recruited has steadily gone up, justifying my choice of school.”

Subramaniam mentored undergraduate students at ASU on their Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative projects and master’s degree students for their theses.

“My mentees had varied educational backgrounds and I had to adapt and relearn things so that they could all constructively contribute to the growth of the project,” he said. “But the times when they start attempting creative experiments independently or suggest inventive ideas for my thesis made it all worth my time and effort.”

After he graduates, Subramaniam is looking into postdoctoral positions with aspirations of teaching.

“I am looking to gain a different set of expertise to complement the skills I already have, which will be useful in a potential career in academia,” he says. “My long-term career aspiration is to be a faculty member. I dream of a life where I can create an environment where people can be curious, just like kids.” 

His advice for his fellow students and researchers is to not dismiss a “failed” experiment.

“Learn from them about why it ‘failed,’” Subramaniam said. “I learned a lot from my numerous failed experiments.”

Erik Wirtanen

Web content comm administrator, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Fulfilling a dream and shaping the automotive industry's future

December 11, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2018 commencement. Read about more graduates

Richard Mortensen is proud to be accomplishing his goal of earning a degree in engineering, but returning to college and managing his time with a family of four children was challenging. Richard Mortensen Richard Mortensen. Download Full Image

After working in the industry as an automotive technician, Mortensen wanted to attend his hometown university to earn an engineering degree.

“To me, engineering is about making things better for those around us in our community, our nation, our world,” he said. “By being an engineer, I get to be a part of a team that makes these goals a reality.”

Outside the classroom, Mortensen joined the Arizona State University EcoCAR3 team. The international EcoCAR3 competition tasked university student teams with developing high-tech, environmentally friendly cars. Mortensen applied his automotive industry knowledge as part of ASU’s EcoCAR3 mechanical team, working on the design and layout of high-voltage cabling fixtures on their hybrid Chevy Camaro.

Team projects also taught him to keep an open mind while working with a group.

“There are many ways to accomplish a task or goal, and you might find one that works better than the option you chose,” he said.

Senior Lecturer James Contes was instrumental in Mortensen’s educational journey. Contes showed him there’s always something new to learn even if you know the profession well.

That advice will be important as Mortensen moves into the next phase of his career. He has noticed the automotive and energy industries are rapidly changing and wants to be part of new developments as he moves to search for his next job.

“I want to have the opportunity to be a source of the change we are seeing and be able to provide for my family,” Mortensen said.

Despite the past four years of busy school and family schedules, Mortensen enjoyed getting the chance to spend time with his kids at ASU football games. After graduation, he’s looking forward to having more time and resources to give his children experiences that will help them grow.

Monique Clement

Communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering