The Quest to Find Research

So as a PhD student the majority of my time will dedicated towards research. Research allows students to produce a thesis and graduate. The research should be groundbreaking, interesting and in the realm of computer science since that is my area. Of course that is a bit overwhelming since I’m not exactly sure how to do all that. I’ve done some research before in undergrad but haven’t come up with my own project. And the idea that it has to be something no-one else has thought of before is also challenging.

I have some ideas for what field I would like to do research in, but don’t have a focus yet. I would like to do some research in technology for people with disabilities. I would really like to use computer science in a manner that helps people. To get started I met with my graduate advisor and discussed my general ideas for research areas. He suggested I take an independent study course with him this semester so that I can explore different research options available on campus. He’s helped me to set up different meetings with various people on campus and they’ve been really interesting to talk to!

One day I was talking to a fellow first year about my research interests and ideas and he mentioned that he had a friend on campus who is currently doing work with prosthetics and maybe could help me get started. He helped us to get connected and after that I met up with his friend, Aadeel. Aadel is a M.D./Ph.D. Student in the Electrical & Computer Engineering department and Medical Scholars Program. He gave me a tour of his group’s labs and an overview of some of the research they are currently doing. He is a cool clip of a past research project he was involved in, Playing Checkers with Your Mind: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spIVPw7XbCs It is pretty awesome!

Now he is more focused on getting sensation back to patients and also allowing them to have a sense of where their arm is. I guess currently prosthetic users have to look at their arm to know where it is in relation to their body, so it’s not that practical. I’m interested in doing research in that area as well so hopefully that works out! Here is a link to an awesome Ted talk that is closely related to this research: http://on.ted.com/tQOx (Ted talks are awesome so I recommend watching it.

After meeting with Aadeel I contacted his advisor and told him about my interests and he suggested I work with someone in his group to get a feel for doing research and to see how I like it. He connected me with Jamie. Jamie told me about one of his projects he worked on with someone else last year, a mind controlled robotic car. Basically the user wears an EEG cap which can monitor brain activity, then by focusing their attention on one of two lights they can direct the robot car to go left or right. He and his partner wrote a paper on it and now would like to push this paper to journal. So he thought I could help with that. I’m meeting with him to get started on assisting! I’m very excited to get some research experience and to learn from Jamie. Also I think this is a great opportunity because it is an already established project, and it is really neat! Here is a video demonstrating: http://people.ae.illinois.edu/tbretl/docs/vids/Akce2012.mp4

So that is sort of where I’m at now. I know there are a lot of videos in this post but if you are interested in science/technology then watch them! I found them really interesting 🙂

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