(March 6, 2018) -- Lyle Hood is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). He specializes in designing innovative medical devices.
Among his designs are a laser needle for treating cancer that can do the work of both a cutting-edge surgical needle and a medical laser, giving it the ability to eradicate cancerous tumors while also delivering chemotherapy drugs.
He’s also the co-creator of a tiny implantable drug delivery system that’s ideal for treating diseases that need frequent medicinal doses over several days or weeks, such as cancer, HIV or AIDS.
Can you talk about the project you’re currently most excited to be working on?
That’s difficult. I am very lucky to have a lot of exciting research going on right now. For instance, microneedles for transdermal drug delivery and cancer treatment, digital extenders for doubling the reach of human fingers while still retaining their sense of touch, redesigning how the basic IV drip works… there’s a lot. Probably my most impactful is a novel drug delivery system we’re developing for delivering immunotherapy inside tumors to get the human body’s immune system to attack cancer.
What is the most important thing going on in your field that no one is talking about?
I’m not sure how many people are talking about this, but it hasn’t become popular knowledge. Immunotherapy is a huge advancement that will impact the health care of many of our students as they get older. Usually, we treat cancer by cutting it out, poisoning (chemotherapy), or burning it. Enlistinging the human body’s own immune system to recognize and eradicate it is very different, because if it’s successful, your adaptive immunity (why you typically don’t get the chicken pox twice) will forever be on guard for that particular form of cancer. It’s a true cure, and that’s extraordinarily important.
How has your personal journey influenced your work?
That’s complicated and there are a diverse set of contributions. One of the most defining is my dad, who is a very important role model for me. He is a periodontist whose entire practice was revolutionized by the adoption of a new technology while I was in high school. He bought a laser system them allowed him to provide patients with better results from fewer visits. This decreased their individual cost while increasing his take home as he was able to help far more people. To me, that’s the best possible outcome for medical technology, and one of the reasons I chose medical research after deciding I didn’t want to stay a pre-med student (too much memorization!).
What advice do you usually give to your students?
My students would have a hard time identifying individual pieces of counsel, as I tend to give way too much unsolicited advice. Common ones are along the lines of:
What do you think makes UTSA unique?
I think UTSA is more student-focused than a lot of universities. In addition to the proper prioritization and focus on diversity, the student accommodations on those with low incomes, special needs and degree-specific services (e.g. printing for the arts majors) are truly unique and make UTSA great. I think that our non-traditional student population and military ties are also very influential and give UTSA its singular flavor.
If you weren’t an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, what career do you think you would have?
Before making the professor transition at UTSA, I was very close to taking jobs reviewing new medical devices at the FDA or working on powered exoskeletons at Northrop Grumman. I could definitely return to a career in those industries. However, the community focus on serving people here at UTSA is quite contagious, so if I wasn’t able to continue as a professor, I believe I’d seek a similar role supporting my community within a non-profit organization or as a different type of educator.
Go inside Lyle Hood’s laboratory.
Learn more about the UTSA Department of Mechanical Engineering.
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