Scott Thourson, Ph.D.
Lab: Neuroprotheses Research Lab, PI: Dr. Kevin Otto
Hometown: Mount Prospect, IL
Degree: Ph.D. in Bioengineering
Year you became a Gator: Fall 2018
From which institutions do you hold degrees?
B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Bradley University, Peoria, IL (2013)
Ph.D. Bioengineering, Georgia Tech, Atlanta, GA (2018)
Our research has been focused on the material properties of a biocompatible conductive polymer that is often applied as a neural electrode coating to improve performance. Neural electrodes help us treat brain dysfunctions like Parkinson’s disease but can also help restore functional limb loss. Engineers who design electrodes to interact with neurons in the brain and the peripheral nervous system want to make their electrodes smaller. The body has been shown to tolerate smaller electrodes better. Tinier electrodes would also allow communication with individual cells (as opposed to hundreds or thousands) for precise control and single cell-level diagnostics. The challenge for electrodes lies in converting electronic signals (electrons) to biological signals (ions). Small electrodes do not convert enough electrons into ions to communicate with cells. Fortunately, conductive polymer films can convert a lot more electrons into ions for a given electrode surface area. Our research has successfully found ways to further increase the amount of electrons converted into ions and increase the rate of conversion. The conductive polymer films that we have developed can enable even smaller electrodes capable of neural communication.
It is worth mentioning that my postdoc research at UF has been uniquely carried out in that all of the experiments have been performed by freshmen and sophomore undergraduate students at UF. My undergraduate research experience significantly changed the course of my life in a positive direction. I wanted to use my postdoc to not only publish great science but to also give UF undergraduate students the opportunity for their achievement to snowball earlier than their peers. It has been quite a successful experiment so far; three of my students presented at BMES during their third college semester! I am very thankful that Dr. Otto has been so open with how I contribute to the lab, the department, and the institution.
The polymer that we have been working with is called Poly(ethylenedioxythiophene) or PEDOT. The Otto lab has thus nicknamed me “PEDOT Scott.”
What motivates you?
As someone with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), I am fueled by intellectual stimulation but am attracted to both analytical and intuitive thinking. I love understanding the root of problems and then putting pieces together to solve them. I also have a very intuitive understanding of how people think and what motivates them. Therefore, I am driven to help others learn how to understand and solve problems in science and engineering, especially those with learning differences such as ADHD.
What attracted you to UF BME?
UF BME is a relatively young department yet has grown so fast. I was very impressed with the faculty and the cohesion of the graduate students. I think Dr. Christine Schmidt has made an excellent effort to create a sense of community within UF BME that people seem very proud to be a part of. I was also attracted to Dr. Kevin Otto’s lab; it consists of a phenomenal group performing diverse research in neuroscience and engineering.
What I love about Gainesville:
Gainesville really has something for everyone. There is lots of great nature around but also great community events such as beer and art festivals. Gainesville is also in a great location between so many other great cities in Florida and Georgia.
Honors and awards: 2019 UF BME Postdoc Excellence Award