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Mechanical engineering major Elise Palac ’02 is modifying a bite-block used by cardiologists during transesophageal echocardiography, a procedure to obtain ultrasound images of the heart, for a senior honors thesis.

A probe with a transducer mounted on its tip is guided through a bite-block into the esophagus to produce the ultrasound images. Currently, the intubation technique is a blind procedure. To maximize patient comfort and reduce procedure complications resulting from the blind intubation, she has developed a design concept for a new bite-block that incorporates an optical system to provide direct visualization of the probe while it is being inserted into the esophagus.

Palac is developing a prototype this spring under the guidance of adviser Steve Nesbit, associate professor of mechanical engineering.

The student switched to mechanical engineering after two years as a business major, taking summer classes to catch up.

“I had an epiphany,” she says. “I had always been drawn to the sciences in high school, but I wanted to explore business in college. I realized I liked sciences better. I’ve been extremely happy with my decision. Professor (James) Schaffer was very nice and helpful. The mechanical engineering department is great. The one-on-one interaction is super,
and the students are close.”

Palac says she chose Lafayette because she wanted a school with highly regarded academics and a Division I basketball program. She played on the women’s basketball team for three years. She also studied abroad through the Lafayette in Brussels program for engineers.

“I’ve done everything I wanted in college: played sports, traveled abroad and learned a lot,” says Palac. “It’s been great.”

Categorized in: Academic News