Using laser technology, she is designing an optical device to help diabetics manage their blood-sugar levels. The device -- mounted on a pair of eyeglass frames -- uses light waves to measure glucose levels in the fluid of a diabetic's eye.
Once developed, the optical device, called a glucometer, will be a great help to diabetics: It is safer, less painful and easier to use than the methods they now use to measure their blood-sugar levels. The glucometer could also help diabetics avoid serious eye problems, including blindness. Ergin’s research crosses over into the fields of bio physics and bio-optics, and is directed by Gordon Thomas, a professor of physics who recruited Ergin.
“Diabetes can be a devastating disease, and it's very gratifying that my research might one day make life easier and safer for them,” says Ergin, who grew up in Turkey but came to America to study at NJIT. “I've been able to combine what I learned in my optics and biophysics’ classes with my biomedical engineering classes,” she adds. “I've also worked with physicists, medical doctors and engineers at the same time, and it’s that interdisciplinary that sparks creativity and innovation.”
Ergin recently started another bio-physics project. For this project, she is developing an optical instrument that doctors can use to diagnosis Alzheimer’s disease in patients. This project, too, involves non-invasive laser technology, which means patients won't have to have surgery to get a diagnosis. Ergin hopes the device will lead to an early diagnosis of the disease, which will give patients more time - and more hope - for an active mental life.
Ergin also works part-time as a materials analyst in the research lab of Ethicon Inc., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. There, she is using innovative laser and microscopic techniques, similar to those she learned in her NJIT biophysics courses, to determine the content of bio-materials such as polymers. These polymers are used to make sutures, topical adhesives and surgical meshes that doctors use for heart surgery, wound management and women's health.
After she finishes her graduate work at NJIT, she’d like to work full time at Johnson & Johnson. But if she doesn’t get a job at J&J, that’s OK with her. “I’m not worried,” she says, her voice brimming with confidence, “because my studies at NJIT have prepared me to do whatever I’d like in biomedical engineering.”