the South By Southwest

Members of the Cockrell School of Engineering and Seton Hospital received the South By Southwest Interactive Innovation SciFi No Longer award Tuesday for their research about the detection of skin cancer.

Biomedical engineering associate professor James Tunnell and Seton Hospital physician Jason Reichenberg worked with a team for seven years to create an optical probe device that detects melanoma and other skin cancer legions faster and more cheaply than current methods are able to do.

Reichenberg said currently, the most common way to detect skin cancer is via a biopsy, which is when a small piece of tissue is removed to be tested. That process has minimal pain and limited side effects, but its cost discourages some people from having irregular areas on the skin examined, he said.

“Most often the pain is from the [anesthetic] injection before, soreness afterward and the scar that forms,” Reichenberg said. “The [process] is usually about $150 for the procedure and $150 for the lab fee.”

Austin Moy, biomedical engineering postdoctorate fellow, said the team’s research combines several different techniques, which allows the computer to capture more images of skin cells than before. Moy said the techniques are light-based and harmless. 

“Our system incorporates three different optical spectroscopy techniques into a single handheld, probe-based device,” Moy said. “Each technique individually has been used in other research projects by other groups, [but with our device], all three techniques are in one system, and the data for each technique can be acquired simultaneously with a single computer.”

Reichenberg said the probe works by using small light waves to take an optic image of the skin. Once the computer captures the graphs and patterns, they look to determine which outputs are cancerous and which are normal. 

“All current techniques for humans or computers to look at the moles are only focusing on the appearance of the spot,” Reichenberg said. “This device is looking ‘inside’ of the spot to see what the biology of the spot is [and] how it is growing.”

In the future, the information that is now available through the probe will be more useful to clinics than the information provided by current methods, Reichenberg said.

Tunnell said the team’s research will increase practical applications for spectroscopic technology.

“This probe, which is able to combine all three spectral modalities, is the next critical step to translating spectroscopic technology to the clinic,” Tunnell said in a statement.

Police block off the roads after the SXSW car accident on March 13. After the accident, service organizations have been left to decide how to distribute more than $180,000 in funds raised to assist victims and their families.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Rashad Charjuan Owens, the driver indicted in the South By Southwest crash in March, made his first public appearance since his arrest before the 147th District Court Judge Clifford Brown during a Wednesday pretrial.

Brown reset Owens’ next court appearance for July 8. Members of Owens’ family attending the Wednesday court appearance declined to comment.

In May, a Travis County grand jury indicted Owens on one count of capital murder, four counts of felony murder and 24 counts of aggravated assault, according to the district clerk’s office.

Police have previously confirmed Owens was driving while intoxicated as he fled police and drove a stolen car through a crowd of people on Red River Street on March 13. Capital murder charges were filed after Jamie West, 27, and Steven Craenmehr, 35, died at the scene. In the two weeks after the crash, Deandre Tatum, 18, and Sandy Le, 26, died.

Since his arrest, Owens has been in Travis County Jail with bail set at $5.5 million.

After the crash, Austin City Council approved a full-scale review of SXSW on March 27. As part of the review, the city has reached out to the community for feedback on how to improve the safety and security of the two-week festival.

A post-event survey conducted by the Austin Center for Events revealed that 49 percent of the 850 respondents attended SXSW events unregistered. Fifty-seven percent of the respondents also voted against the city working alongside the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to limit the amount of hours that alcohol is served during SXSW events.

Responses to the 19 questions asked by the survey concluded that traffic and transportation remains a top priority for city events.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Just after midnight Thursday, Rashad Owens drove a car through the South By Southwest crowd on Red River Street and hit 23 people in less than a minute, according to police. Three of those victims — Greg Cerna, Maria Belyaeva and Ryan Freeman — are UT sophomores. Here, Cerna, Belyaeva and sophomore Oliver Croomes, who was with them the at the scene, recount their memories of the collision.  

Greg Cerna

Nineteen-year-old Greg Cerna, computer science and electrical engineering sophomore, remembers getting pizza with his friends just before midnight Wednesday night. He remembers agreeing to walk to the Mohawk Bar to see Tyler, the Creator, despite not really being a fan. After that, he said, things get a little blurry.

“I remember getting to Red River Street but, after that, just loud noises,” Cerna said. “The next thing I remember really clearly is waking up in the hospital and seeing my aunt’s face.”

Cerna suffered a concussion and received scrapes and bruises all along the right side of his body after being hit. His head gash is now marked by nine metal staples. Cerna’s friend Croomes, who was at the scene but did not get hit, said he believes Cerna was carried up the block by the hood of the car.

“We had to walk toward people at the next intersection — that’s when I first saw [Cerna],” Croomes said. “I thought maybe he was dead.”

Cerna, who spoke slowly on Sunday, searching for words he has trouble remembering, said he is still in disbelief when he thinks about the reality of the collision.

“I never thought it was the kind of thing that could happen,” Cerna said. “And, like, to me.”

Maria Belyaeva

Maria Belyaeva’s body is covered with yellowing bruises and tiny cuts just starting to scab over. She has a sprained ankle, concealed bruises on her skull and several staples on the back of her head holding together a larger cut. 

Belyaeva, computer science and radio-television-film sophomore, said she was one of the first people hit by the car.

“It hit us from behind,” Belyaeva said. “I was told he accelerated afterwards, which is scary. I remember waking up, and somebody was holding my hand, and someone else was holding my neck. It was dark, and they told me that I had been hit by a car, but I kind of thought they were kidding because I didn’t feel anything. I mean, my head hurt a little bit, but that was pretty much it.”

Belyaeva said she feels Owens, who is accused of driving the car, should see strict repercussions for his actions.

“I think he deserves a really harsh punishment,” Belyaeva said. “I know he was drunk, but that’s never really an excuse to be like ‘Oh, maybe I should go through this barricaded street through all of these people.’ He should accept the consequences of his actions, whatever they may be.”

Oliver Croomes

Computer science sophomore Oliver Croomes has no idea where the blood-stained Mohawk Bar t-shirt on his blue living room table came from. Someone handed it to him after the crash, but Croomes said no one was shirtless, and he was in shock. 

Croomes, who was walking along Red River Street with Cerna, Belyaeva and Freeman at the time of the crash, did not actually get hit by the gray Honda. Instead, he watched his three friends bear the brunt of the collision. Initially, he could not find them in the chaos.

“I remember thinking, I hope no one’s dead,” Croomes said. “I saw [Maria] first — I didn’t see her moving, so that freaked me out, but at least I knew she was there. I found [Freeman] on the opposite side of the street, but then — where the fuck was [Cerna]?”

Croomes said he was surprised by how quickly the collision was over.

“When you imagine situations like that, you feel like you’ll have some sort of time to escape, or help yourself,” Croomes said. “It just happens way, way too quickly.”

Cromes said, since the crash, he has a new awareness of mortality.

“I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately, [and now] I guess I kind of have a phobia of cars,” Croomes said. “But I’m OK.”