Thomas Usherwood: Better health care through biomedical engineering

The Brown undergraduate and newly named Goldwater Scholar draws from multiple math and science disciplines to help devise innovative ways to improve health care through biomedical engineering.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Thomas Usherwood was still a high school student when he first became interested in biomedical engineering — a field that draws upon math, physics, biology and computer programming to devise innovative ways to improve health care.

That interest brought him to Brown, where he has been able to explore the many branches of math and science that inform the field, he said.

“To be successful in the biomedical engineering field, these days, it's important to have a background in a variety of subjects,” Usherwood said. “Brown is strong in a lot of the fields where I was really hoping to become skilled — from applied math to engineering to computer science.”

Through a series of long-term undergraduate research experiences, the junior biomedical engineering concentrator has expanded upon and explored concepts introduced in his coursework. In the lab of Anubhav Tripathi — a professor of engineering and molecular biology, pharmacology and biotechnology — Usherwood has helped to develop a method for extracting DNA from blood samples. He is also a member of the lab of Vikas Srivastava, an assistant professor of engineering, where he has helped to design a computer model that predicts the impact that human behavior may have on the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines. 

“To be successful in the biomedical engineering field, these days, it's important to have a background in a variety of subjects. Brown is strong in a lot of the fields where I was really hoping to become skilled — from applied math to engineering to computer science.”

Thomas Usherwood Goldwater Scholar, Member of Class of 2022
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Thomas Usherwood, Class of 2022

Usherwood has also contributed to a Dartmouth College project developing new ways to measure bone and soft tissue viability. For doctors, having access to this information will be helpful when detecting and treating bone and soft tissue damage in patients. 

Having these varied research opportunities has been essential to shaping Usherwood’s path, he said.

“These experiences have given me a diversity of skills in lots of different subjects,” he said. “I’ve been able to think about what aspects of each type of engineering project I prefer, and that has guided me as I’ve developed a sense of what type of engineering projects I most enjoy.”

In Spring 2021, Usherwood was awarded a Goldwater Scholarship, a nationally recognized award that supports sophomores and juniors who plan to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. Usherwood said that his scholarship will enable him to pursue undergraduate research projects that will bolster his candidacy for Ph.D. programs next year — and that, in the meantime, are also a lot of fun.

“It’s great to be able to continue working on these projects that I’m really enjoying,” he said.