Georgia Tech Student Wins Marshall Scholarship

Ryan Haynes has the heart of a doctor, the brain of a research scientist and the tenacity of a computer programmer. All he needs now to help him realize his dream of developing life-changing medical technologies is the acumen of a business executive. As the only 2006 Marshall Scholar from a Georgia public university, Haynes will get the chance to sharpen his business skills at the University of Cambridge next year as he pursues a master's degree in nanotechnology enterprise and a degree in bioimaging sciences at Imperial College London a year later.

"I feel that a lot of really good basic science research just stays in the laboratory when it could be out there helping patients," said Haynes, a senior in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. "I like clinical work because it gets things to patients more directly. I feel business is the avenue to translate basic science to clinical applications."

The program at Cambridge, he said, will prepare him to take nanotechnology and biotechnology solutions into the marketplace. The Imperial program will allow him to apply the things he's learned at Cambridge to medical imaging technologies, potentially benefiting patients with neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

It's career path that seems natural to the Calhoun, Louisiana, native who received his first computer when he was five and started experimenting with computer programming at age 11.

In high school, he developed a distance education program that united math students over the Internet. The project earned first place honors at the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. In college, his programming has not only helped him in research but also allowed him to create an Internet software application called Endeavor to help both students and instructors in teaching college calculus.

When it came time to choose a university he was torn between Georgia Tech, Rice University and MIT. "The President's Scholarship Program is pretty much what pulled me over," he said. "I liked Georgia Tech's campus better and its academic environment was what I was looking for."

At Tech, Haynes has made the most of the opportunities offered in biomedical engineering, working in the neuroengineering lab of Assistant Professor Steve Potter and at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

"One of the great things about Tech is its research program," said Haynes. "Work in the Potter lab has greatly complemented my coursework because you learn one thing in class and the next week you see it in the lab."

In Potter's lab, Haynes is testing how networks of neurons respond to different amounts of the chemical dopamine, which is involved in drug addiction, Parkinson's disease and schizophrenia. While many labs release the chemicals onto the entire culture of neurons, Potter wants to see how smaller groups of cells respond. "I created an enclosure and system to locally release chemicals, which will allow small volumes of neurotransmitters to stimulate cells much like what happens in a real brain," said Haynes.

At Children's Healthcare, Haynes is using a software program that renders the brain's cerebral cortex as a sphere, allowing doctors to measure the thickness of the cortex in various patient groups.

"We're trying to figure out what the normal thickness is and then measure children who have frontal lobe epilepsy, figure out what atrophy occurs in what area and correlate that with cognitive tests to see if there is a certain area of the brain that's more affected than others," said Haynes.

Haynes is the seventh Tech student to win the Marshall, a scholarship established by the British Government for American students in 1953 in appreciation for assistance received after World War II under the Marshall Plan.

Prominent former Marshall scholars include U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer; former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt; New York Times foreign affairs columnist Tom Friedman; and the scientist/inventor Ray Dolby.