St. Mary’s University Engineering Professor Irwin Goldberg, Ph.D., is working with a team of researchers on an Air Force-funded project that could improve the accuracy and safety of laser medical treatments.

Goldberg was awarded an $117,000 grant from the U.S. Air Force’s Office of Scientific Research for the mathematical modeling of laser heating of biological tissue. The work is being done in collaboration with the University of Texas Health Science Center’s Ophthalmology Department and the Air Force Research Laboratory at Brooks City Base.

Goldberg’s contribution involves the mathematical modeling and computer simulations of heat transfer and water diffusion during laser heating of the skin and the cornea of the eye. Misty Garcia, a St. Mary’s undergraduate engineering student, is working with Goldberg as a research assistant on the project.

Since it was invented in the 1960s, numerous medical applications have been found for the laser, including repair of the cornea, removal of skin lesions and laser cutting by surgeons.

The significance of lasers to medicine comes from the heating effects caused when the laser beam penetrates biological tissue. However, the temperature rise caused by laser heating must be carefully controlled to prevent excessive damage of healthy tissue.

Mathematical modeling and simulation techniques complement experimental and clinical research by producing quantitative predictions of the temperature rise and water evaporation that accompany laser-tissue interactions. This research will enhance the medical applications of lasers while improving their safe use.

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