Casey DeLano ’21

BrainSpec, Boston, MA

This summer I worked as a Data Scientist at BrainSpec, a health technology company that processes magnetic resonance spectroscopy scans to help diagnosis disorders ranging from Alzheimer’s to congenital heart disease to brain cancer. The company has made the previous two- to three-day-long analysis of each patient’s chemical fingerprint now take 2-3 minutes. This technology requires comparing the chemical levels of a patient’s brain to robust metabolite levels of a healthy patient to detect abnormalities. Due to the rapid development of the human brain within the first five years of life, a normative range for pediatric patients is different from that of adults. My project for the summer has been to establish how these concentration levels of brain metabolites change with age in healthy patients.

BrainSpec is in the final stages of preparation to submit for FDA approval. Every component of the software must be clearly documented and supported with objective evidence. In addition to constructing the pediatric normative range database for brain metabolite levels, I wrote the FDA documentation explaining the objective, background, procedure, and results of the project. This process forced me not only to develop a procedure that was robust and well supported with clinically appropriate evidence but also to articulate my process clearly in a way that someone unfamiliar with spectroscopy could understand. The skill of communicating my work product with relevant visualizations and supporting literature is one that is widely transferrable to many professional spheres.

Throughout the summer, I worked most closely with the co-founder and CEO of the company. Because we met one-on-one weekly, I learned quickly to develop my own meeting agenda to maximize our time together. Communicating my progress from the previous week and consolidating my questions was a vital part of my preparation. We also had weekly team meetings where the company’s software developer and two other summer interns would recap our progress.

Working at BrainSpec has dramatically influenced key areas of importance to me. As a double major in statistics and economics, I have been considering writing a thesis throughout my time at Williams. After receiving very positive feedback from top MGH spectroscopists that my work could be developed into several published papers that would offer significant contribution to the field, I have decided to extend my work with BrainSpec into a full-year statistics thesis. This opportunity will allow me to continue working with the incredibly talented people at BrainSpec, (hopefully) get several scientific papers published in well-established journals, and graduate from Williams with honors.

I am extremely grateful for this opportunity at BrainSpec. This experience has given me concrete marketable skills such as Python proficiency and documentation expertise; I have made a hopefully lasting impact in the field of spectroscopy with the first established normal brain chemical levels in pediatric patients; and I will build upon my work this summer with a full-year thesis.