Grad’s Autism Research Gets Attention

Shannon Brindle plans to continue her research in graduate school.

Physics graduate Shannon Brindle ’21 devoted her undergraduate research to developing an imaging analysis technique for faster diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders. And Physics, an online magazine from the American Physical Society, took notice. 

She and Clark Saben ’24 worked with Rasha Makkia, UMW visiting assistant professor of physics. Brindle aspires to develop a “computational technique that can simultaneously extract multiple structures from 3D magnetic resonance imaging brain scans, something not possible with other methods,” the magazine reported after Brindle presented her findings at the March meeting of the American Physical Society. 

If successful, Brindle’s image analysis technique could allow clinicians to start therapies more quickly than is currently possible. 

As an undergraduate, Brindle didn’t have access to unlimited scans, so she tested her method on images of three 8-year-old boys, two diagnosed with autism and one not. While it’s too early to say if her observations have clinical significance, the measurements she made appear to be meaningful. 

Brindle hopes to continue this research in graduate school as she works toward becoming a medical physicist. The honors graduate is president of the UMW Optical Society and a member of Mortar Board, Sigma Pi Sigma physics honor society, and Chi Beta Phi science honor society.

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