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Elif Kaya
Elif Kaya | Image: Engineering Communications

Electrical and computer engineering doctoral candidate Elif Kaya is working with Dr. Kamran Entesari on a device to assist with early breast cancer detection in the hope of saving millions of lives.

Worldwide breast cancer statistics are staggering: On average, a woman is diagnosed with this type of cancer every 19 seconds and one woman will die every 13 minutes. One in eight women will be diagnosed in their lifetime.

This project was born from Kaya’s involvement with the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Site program during Summer 2019 in the College of Engineering at Texas A&M University, which supports up to 150 undergraduate and graduate student teams with highly innovative technical strategies as they explore the commercial aspects of these ideas over five years. By participating in the Site program, Kaya received training to develop her value proposition and pursue customer discovery to gain better understanding of how her technology meets the needs of patients and physicians.

Kaya said her own sister passed through the breast cancer detection process, and even though she was cleared, it was very difficult on everyone in her family.

“The first time you don’t want to accept it, you worry about whether she has something or not. I decided to focus my research on cancer detection so if I can find a way to solve this problem in a shorter time, it can help lots of people,” Kaya said.

Video: Engineering Communications

If it is possible for you to make things to change the world, why not? Even if we are not physicians, we can help the physicians to save lives. I don’t care if people know my name. I want to make people happy and save lives using my research and that’s why I chose this project.

Elif Kaya

Early detection can increase a patient’s chance of finding breast cancer before it spreads. The first process for breast cancer detection is a hand examination, but a lack of comfortability with this type of examination among some patients has been shown to be a large issue with late diagnosis and high mortality rates. Other available techniques and devices currently used to detect breast cancer can be lengthy, bulky and expensive.

“A large portion of survivors detected the cancer early due to self-examination,” she said. “However, lack of better self-examination education can be another reason for the high number of statistics of breast cancer. Unlike existing devices, our specific device is concerned with creating and developing a technology that would be a near-field, contact-less, compact and portable device, enabling easy use to combat the uneasiness associated with current self-examination and provide a comfortable interaction between doctors and patients by eliminating the hand examination, and use artificial intelligence for detection to enhance accuracy.”

While still in the early stages of the process, the team is working on the idea for the device to be used in place of an ultrasound or mammogram in a doctor’s office to provide results in 10-20 minutes versus several days in a modern city and up to several months in a rural area.

Kaya and Entesari are using chemical detection to create a prototype of this device.

“We have demonstrated that the first broadband time domain contact-less CMOS (complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor) homodyne-transceiver works as a complex dielectric spectroscopy with an exceptional accuracy that can characterize the materials such as liquid/solid materials, chemical/biological materials or body tissues,” Kaya said. “I presented this work at the world’s biggest RF/microwave (radio frequency) event, IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) International Microwave Symposium this year in June, which was then selected among the top three finalists of over approximately 400 accepted papers for the Best Advanced Practice Paper Award, which recognizes outstanding technical contributions that apply to practical applications.”

The most difficult part of the project is having the system work for all patients, accounting for the varying factors of body type and age. Although there are already some research projects focused on breast cancer detection, Kaya’s team is proposing to make a more cost-effective miniaturized portable device with greater accuracy, ease of use and quick results.

“If it is possible for you to make things to change the world, why not? Even if we are not physicians, we can help the physicians to save lives,” Kaya said. “I don’t care if people know my name. I want to make people happy and save lives using my research and that’s why I chose this project.”