Brant D. Watson
I am currently Professor of Neurology at the Miller School of Medicine and Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, at the University of Miami. My research is on stroke, thromboembolic as well as hemorrhagic. In general, neurointerventional methods for restoring blood flow in the brain are mechanically disruptive and generate complications such as emboli and inflammation. I obtained a patent in 2003 for a method (called UV laser-facilitated dethrombosis) to dissolve that portion of arterial blockages composed of platelets only, which is extremely resistant to (thrombo)lysis mediated by "clot-busting" enzymes. This discovery is clinically relevant because recent work at UCLA has shown that obstructive clots in human stroke consist of alternating layers of platelets and fibrin entrapping pools of red blood cells. The prevaiIing dogma that clots were "red" (of cardiac origin) or "white" (of atheromatous origin) was thus completely overturned, because these structures are indistinguishable. Owing to its capriciousness, and difficulty in obtaining clearly interpretable data, stroke has historically been plagued by such pontifically conceived (and received) attempts to impose order out of often hopeless chaos. But I have been able to conduct my studies in stroke based on attacking the problem as it really is, using physical methods and reasoning. I drew the right picture (platelet clots are fundamental), made the clots (first patent), and then dissolved them (second patent), while the vast bulk of stroke research was conducted on animal models of stroke that did not involve clots at all. (Results can be obtained much faster with such truncated models). I therefore thank my first teachers at MU for encouraging my fearlessness, while patiently attempting to instill some sense of scientific judgment through their personal examples, and the hundreds upon hundreds of problems they assigned for homework.
An Aside: Arfken was so respected that no student would ever dare to challenge him, having no desire to be exposed to a glare from those unflinching blue eyes. BUT, in the spring of 1964 he was getting tired of students showing up late to class, so he started locking the door! One day I got locked out, so in total desperation I ran outside to see if I could somehow get into the class through a window. There is a ledge surrounding the west side of Culler Hall about 9 ½ feet up, so I got under it, and on my third leap, manage to snag two fingers on it and held on long enough to get my other hand on the ledge. I then pulled myself up to where I could bang on the first window, which was closed. Arfken looked over very surprised and shook his head NO! So, while hanging on to the side of the building by my fingertips, I managed to crab-walk to the other window, which was open, climbed through it, and crashed onto the floor. By this time the class was in such an uproar that Arfken had to chuckle after all, and permitted me to stay, saying that he had never seen a student so desperate to get into a class. I was in Oxford two years ago and went back to look at that ledge, and admit if the idea of scaling it then was preposterous, it now appears impossible.
"The first thing I learned about physics was from Dave Griffing in 1961: first, draw a picture of the problem - it sounds elementary, but the picture has to be accurate. Then you can try to solve it, with emphasis on clarity and efficient recognition of conservation principles. Then George Arfken taught me about how mathematical physics expresses these same qualities. I was among his guinea pigs when he was preparing his famous textbook."
"From (the incredibly patient) Joe Priest, I was exposed to the necessity of having common sense once in a while, especially when working around high voltage and radioactivity. That is to say, when you are looking at something, you also have to SEE it."
- Brant D. Watson, BA, Physics 1964 and MA Physics 1965