I’ve always felt I had the potential to make a big impact on the world. Fresh out of graduate school, I joined GE Global Research in 2002 because GE has the values, size, and people to make a difference. As the manager of our High Energy Physics lab, I have the honor of being at the forefront of the next generation of innovation. One of our core areas of research is x-ray generation technology for medical imaging. Every day, my team at GE Global Research is striving to put the best tools into the hands of the medical community.
While I intuitively knew how important these tools are, it became crystal clear on October 11, 2012, when my 4-year-old son, Adam, was diagnosed with stage IV, high risk, Neuroblastoma. It brought everything my team and I had done for the past 10 years into focus, as I was able to see how important research is to not only the medical community, but also to individuals and families.
I knew that children can have cancer, but I always thought it was extremely rare. I had no idea that there was a huge community of pediatric cancer patients across the globe, and even a sizable group right in our area. Now that I know how it feels to have a child whose life depends on these medical techniques, I am even more passionate about gaining ground on research that can make life easier, and save lives.
I had never even heard of Neuroblastoma before Adam’s diagnosis. In neuroblastoma, immature nerve cells grow into cancer cells, instead of a part of a normal nervous system. It is a rare, solid tumor pediatric cancer. Adam had a grapefruit sized tumor above his adrenal gland, and more sites spread throughout his skeletal system.
Neuroblastoma has terrible survival statistics. Today, with the most advanced medical research, the 5-year survival rate for stage IV neuroblastoma is 60%. Neuroblastoma often relapses, and when it does, the survival rate is extremely low. These percentages are not even close to where they need to be, especially when you are talking about your own child’s life.
Every day, I live in fear. Fear that my son’s cancer will relapse and there will be nothing we can do to help him. Fear that more children will have to endure the harsh treatments and after effects of the treatments that are in use today. Fear that nothing available will work.
That said, for the past 16 months, Adam has received an amazing array of therapy including Chemotherapy, Stem Cell Transplant, Monoclonal Antibody Treatment, Targeted Radioisotope Therapy, Radiation Therapy, and Surgery. Each of these treatments is built on hours of thought, discovery, successes, failures, brave kids, and incredibly inventive, resilient researchers. These treatments have drastically improved the odds from 30 years ago when there were hardly any neuroblastoma survivors.
Seeing this in action not only makes me proud to be doing research but makes me realize the importance of being able to keep this research going strong. Hopefully the 60% survival rate can one day be at 100%.
My friends and mentors at GE Global Research and GE Healthcare developed, installed and maintain the imaging machines, agents and infrastructure on which Adam and many of the other children fighting cancer are monitored and treated. My team’s efforts at GE Global Research & GE Healthcare will give tomorrow’s doctors better information to improve survival rates without causing harmful long term side effects.
This year to help raise money for researchers to make medical breakthroughs, I am participating in a St. Baldrick’s event in Albany, NY on Sunday, March 16. My team members and I will be shaving our heads to raise money for pediatric cancer research. St. Baldrick’s is an amazing organization that directly funds research to find cures for pediatric cancer. In addition to the statement of shaving my head, my family has made a financial contribution to our team, which GE is generously matching through the GE matching gifts program.
Every day I have hope. Hope that researchers will come up with new therapies that will save children afflicted by cancer. Hope that they’ll make progress toward treatments that will not leave children with hearing loss, secondary cancers, and many other life long side effects.
Hope that with the right funds and the right tools, the next breakthrough will result in a difference, not just for Adam, but for others who are afflicted with cancer at much too young an age.
If you feel inspired to be a part of our upcoming St. Baldrick’s event, please consider joining or supporting my team.
To see more about Adam’s journey check out our Facebook page, Aces for Adam.
Reference to Cancer Research Facts in Article
Yu, Alice L., et al. “Anti-GD2 antibody with GM-CSF, interleukin-2, and isotretinoin for neuroblastoma.” New England Journal of Medicine 363.14 (2010): 1324-1334.
President Obama today announced two new manufacturing innovation institutes. One is focused on digital manufacturing and design innovation that will be headquartered in Chicago, Illinois; the second is focused on lightweight and modern metals manufacturing that will be headquartered outside of Detroit, Michigan.
GE will be a key industry partner in both initiatives, providing its technology and manufacturing scale expertise across several industrial sectors to these institutes. A significant focus of work with the Institutes will involve GE Global Research, headquartered in Niskayuna, NY.
Mark Little, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of GE and head of GE’s Global Research Centers, stated, “GE is thrilled to support and be a part of both new manufacturing innovation institutes announced today by President Obama. Today and in the future, strength in manufacturing will come from being a part of a larger ecosystem of partners big and small working toward the same goals. It also will come from a strong commitment to materials and manufacturing innovation. That is exactly what these two institutes will help to cultivate and in the process, encourage the growth of America’s manufacturing base and jobs.”
Little continued, “Manufacturing is entering a 3rd Industrial Revolution that will be defined by a digital thread that connects every part of the supply chain. This digital thread will be our 21st century assembly line that not only transforms what we make, it will transform the manufacturing supply chain as we know it. It will invite a whole new community of small and medium-sized businesses, individual entrepreneurs and the Maker movement to be key partners in this new manufacturing ecosystem.”
“At GE, we’re developing a new concept we call ‘The Brilliant Factory,’ which is aligned with what the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute wants to make possible,” Little said. “Imagine a self-improving factory that can continuously improve products and processes in the plant. With a seamless digital thread that can gather, analyze and transmit data real-time to different parts of the supply chain, that day is coming.”
Check out the below video to hear thoughts from Christine Furstoss, Manufacturing & Materials Technology Director and Stephan Biller, Chief Manufacturing Scientist talking more about GE’s participation in these institutes. To learn more about how digital manufacturing will work in the future, check out this blog post and video by GE Scientist Joe Salvo.
“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”
~Thomas Campbell, Physicist
On Sunday, February 9, GE Global Research lost a co-worker and friend when Zach Stum died unexpectedly. News of his death brought shock and confusion as many of us who knew Zach tried to grasp how a young father of two (and one on the way) could be gone. When contemplating all that Zach accomplished at work as well in the community, the sense of loss was profound. Zach was an outstanding engineer, a man who led by example, and an innovative leader. Outside of the lab, he was a family man and someone who truly lived life with a positive attitude.
Zach joined GE as an engineer in January 2006. Educated at Penn State and Cornell, his academic credentials were of the highest caliber. It did not take long for Zach to establish himself not only as a person of great intellect but as an individual capable of providing innovative ideas as well as solutions that he was able to skillfully execute as a Lead SiC Device Engineer.
He took every opportunity available to expand his knowledge base, authoring approximately 16 scientific papers and 20 GE reports. He was a key contributor to several winning grants and his SiC and academic research efforts resulted in 11 US patent awards and 5 patent applications pending. Global Research recognized Zach’s many contributions by awarding him the MNST Robert N. Hall Award for outstanding personal achievement. Most recently he was honored as a member of the MOSFET (metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor) team that earned the 2012 GE Global Research Whitney Award for outstanding technical achievement.
Education was important to Zach as evidenced by the pursuit of his PhD at RPI that he was scheduled to complete in 2015. Zach enjoyed his role as a teacher as well as a student, serving as a teaching and research assistant during his academic career. Zach brought those skills to GE, functioning as an instructor for the Edison Program. He led the performance and yield improvement initiatives for the Next Generation SiC MOSFET devices and is also credited with assisting in the development of the world’s best SiC 1200V power MOSFET device. In all areas, Zach chose to lead by example.
Outside of work Zach was actively involved in his church and Schenectady City Mission. It was not unusual for him to be the first to volunteer and first to show up to offer a helping hand, and he always did so with a positive attitude and a smile. Zach’s laugh was infectious and one of the personal things I will miss along with the great conversations we had about families and parenting. His face would light up when speaking of his wife, Diane, their children, Carolyn, Jocelyn and the baby expected in June. Zach exhibited pride in his work, his accomplishments and most of all, his family.
Zach Stum was an integral part of the research center and a valuable contributor to Micro Nano Structures Technology. He truly exemplified the values of GE. The impact of his loss will be far reaching. I am honored to have had the opportunity to work with Zach and to call him a friend.
I’m blogging this week from an event I’m always thrilled to attend – the annual ARPA-e Energy Innovation Summit in Washington. I’m joined here by a few of my colleagues from GE Global Research to showcase a few of the projects we’re partnering with ARPA-e on in the high-voltage direct current (HVDC) space, and I’d also like to take the occasion to share with you a major milestone that we’ve recently hit.
More than 100 years ago, AC triumphed over DC as the technology of choice to transmit power. But, as you may have read below in my previous blog entry, we’re now embarking on a project that explores the benefits of a power grid with a DC backbone. Currently none exist, but as the demand for energy grows, it’s DC – not AC – which provides the unique ability to bring a greater number of renewable resources online while transmitting power reliably over long distances.
With the support of ARPA-e, we’re working on a project to develop a DC fault-resilient modular DC/DC transformer that would enable renewable power systems, like a wind farm, to connect directly to an HVDC grid without the need for a DC breaker. This is significant. Breakers are expensive and wind energy isn’t always generated close to where consumers live.
In the last few weeks, the GE team has reached a major milestone in our work. In the lab, we’ve been able to demonstrate a short-circuit scenario in which our converter technology can disconnect from a mock HVDC grid in just 50 microseconds following DC fault. We have successfully validated the breakdown test of a module at a voltage in excess of 250kV DC. Our modular DC/DC transformer, which will comprise hundreds of such modules, is expected to be up to 40% lighter and up to 5 times smaller than present HVDC converter technology for multi-terminal DC power systems. Take a look at this short video to see for yourself the breakdown test of the module.
We’re excited about this technology. Imagine a world where wind power generated in rural North Dakota or offshore in the Atlantic, could be transmitted hundreds, or even thousands of miles away to customers in Boston or San Francisco, without a hiccup. That’s what a HVDC power grid could enable. It’s early; we won’t see one of these power grids spring up tomorrow, but the future is bright and GE is helping blaze the trail.
Recently, GE launched a new advertising campaign that tells the GE story through the eyes of a child. In celebration of this Childlike Imagination theme, several of our researchers asked their children to draw a picture of what they do here at GE Global Research.
Our Knowledge Discovery Lab Manager Steve Gustafson (@stevengustafson) asked his 8-year-old son Thomas to depict what he thought his Dad did at work. Thomas’s drawing was not only featured, but was brought to life in a 6-second video by Vine artist @Jethro Ames. See Thomas’s work below, along with a short Q&A we had with Thomas and Steve about this fun experience.
Steve, what did Thomas draw that showed what you do for work?
He drew me working with paper and pencil, and with a laptop next to me.
How accurate was Thomas in portraying what you do?
I am a computer scientist, but I often catch up on manuscript reviewing and writing at home. My son knows I do things with computers and data, but he usually sees me with a pen reading scientific articles for review.
Any interesting conversations or discoveries that came out of this activity?
I was a little surprised he used the phrase “looks at data.” I asked him why that phrase. He said he heard me saying that to someone. So we talked a little about what I do with the data. Then he got bored and wanted to play XBox!
What impressed you most about his work?
I love that he drew me! While he was working on it in the other room, he came over to me and said “show me your work face.” That made me laugh!
What does Thomas want to be when he grows up?
The last I checked it was a robot scientist, but this time when I asked he said he was thinking about being a basketball player.
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