"Awake at the Wheel"
Researcher, Inventor George Stetten Releases First Music CD
M.D. and Ph.D. George Stetten, a research scientist at Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute and a faculty member in the Bioengineering Department at the University of Pittsburgh, has invented an imaging device called the "Sonic Flashlight" that could improve medical operations and outcomes for surgeons and patients around the world. But, it's his music, specifically his first CD, which excites him most.
This past summer Stetten released "Awake at the Wheel" on his own independent music label, "stetten.com," and it is available through the online music store, CD Baby (www.cdbaby.com). He describes the music as "sort of folk rock filled with thoughtful lyrics and hummable tunes."
Stetten produced and recorded the 10 original songs in his home studio and plays all the instruments while his wife and daughters sing backup in many of the songs. He even created the artwork that appears on the CD.
"Today anyone can produce their own stuff and put it on the Web," he said. "You can have a really good studio at home for around $10,000. It would have cost $1 million 10 years ago."
Stetten's musical background includes 12 years of classical piano lessons, playing keyboards in rock bands and strumming folk songs on his guitar. He began writing his own music as an engineering student at Harvard University. He has worked as the house pianist at a seaside café, played at the Philadelphia Folk Festival in 1983 and appeared solo in the PBS television series "All American Jazz" in 1989. He founded the Duke University Music Exchange in 1987 and produced its first CD, "Voices of Dume." His piano playing may be heard periodically as a segue on National Public Radio's program, "All Things Considered."
Stetten says he became an engineer because he needed to know how to fix his musical equipment. He parlayed that need to know into his engineering degree, and then spent a year at the New England Conservatory of Music where he studied jazz.
He went on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he was on the staff of the Computer Music Studio, part of what is now the Media Lab. There, he invented an early touch-sensitive electronic piano keyboard. After his stint at MIT, he worked at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute on Cape Cod, where he built the first computer system for their Deep Submersible, Alvin.
From there he went to New York University where he got a master's degree in neurobiology and computer graphics. After earning a medical degree from the State University of New York at Syracuse, he spent eight years at Duke University's Biomedical Engineering Department working with Olaf von Ramm, the scientist who developed 3D ultrasound. Soon after moving to Pittsburgh in 1999, he had the epiphany that spawned his ultrasound-based "Sonic Flashlight."
The Sonic Flashlight (www.stetten.com/george/rttr/) is a real-time ultrasound-scanning device that will enable doctors to look directly beneath the body's surface as they perform procedures. Real Time Tomographic Reflection, as Stetten calls it, allows physicians to see blood vessels, muscle tissue and other aspects of internal anatomy.
"It's important because it enables surgeons to operate with an image directly in front of them instead of looking away from their hands to a display in another location, which is the case today," Stetten explained.
"Although doctors use ultrasound to guide invasive procedures like inserting a needle in a vein, they must look away as they do it, which causes a displaced sense of hand-eye coordination. The sonic flashlight promises more accurate, easier to perform surgical procedures."
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