Mentor Name:
Jacob George

Mentor Position:
Assistant Professor

Electrical & Computer Engineering



Project Description:

**This project is a part of the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR), which provides undergraduate students with an intensive 10-week research experience under the mentorship of a University of Utah faculty member. SPUR 2022 begins on May 25 and ends on August 4. If you are interested in this project, please review all program information on the SPUR site. If you wish to apply to this project, you must apply using the SPUR 2022 application.**

“Losing a limb is like losing a family member, except you are reminded of it every day.” – Anonymous Amputee

Most of us have experienced the grief of losing a loved one, and we can understand how emotionally devastating loss can be. But, it’s difficult to fully capture how much more debilitating it is to be constantly reminded of your loss by chronic pain, physical disability, and nonautonomy. For individuals suffering from paralysis, paresis, or limb-loss, life is chronic struggle with depression and endurance of life-long neuropathic pain. This is in addition to practical difficulties associated with activities of daily living and potential loss of employment. These challenges often result in long-term use of antidepressants and narcotics, as well as high medical costs associated with anxiety and other psychological struggles. Current treatments are costly and ineffective, leaving millions of people waiting for a better medical solution…

At the Utah NeuroRobotics Lab, we are working to turn science fiction into reality. Inspired by Luke Skywalker’s Bionic Arm, we have developed state-of-the-art bionic arms that can restore dexterous control and provide a natural sense of touch. At a higher-level, our lab seeks to augment biological neural networks with artificial neural networks and bionic devices to treat neurological disorders and to further our understanding of neural processing. Working at the intersection of artificial intelligence, robotics, and neuroscience, we are developing biologically-inspired artificial intelligence and brain-machine interfaces to restore and/or enhance human function.

Opportunity Type:

This is a paid research position

Student Role:

We have eight undergraduate students currently working in the lab and dozens of potential projects available. Projects typically fall into the broad categories of: mechanical design, electrical design, software development, machine learning, or human-subjects testing. Previous undergraduate researchers have developed new prosthetics and orthotics, built brain-machine interfaces, analyzed neural and electromyographic data, instantiated machine-learning algorithms, conducted human-subject experiments, presented at conferences, and published scientific papers. We work closely with each student to find an appropriate project that leverages their background skills and provides them training in areas of their interest. Background experience is not required, although having some relevant experience can allow a student to work more independently sooner. A detailed list of available projects can be found at: https://neurorobotics.ece.utah.edu/trainee-projects/ As a member of the Utah NeuroRobotics Lab, you will be responsible for leading your own independent research project. You will be assigned a mentor to help you refine your project goals and your career development plans. You will also be assigned a team of supporting researchers to help you with your research. Included in this team will be additional graduate mentors to help with technical implementation and training, as well as other assistants (e.g., high-school volunteers) to help with day-to-day tasks. With support from your graduate mentor, you will lead weekly project meetings and direct your team to achieve your research goals. Outside of your own independent project, you will also be expected to assist with other student projects and participate in lab social events.

Student Benefits:

As a member of the Utah NeuroRobotics Lab, you will be trained in the interdisciplinary field of neurorobotics and can expect to learn fundamental skills in neuroscience, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering, computer science, and physical medicine & rehabilitation. You will learn to lead a research team, communicate effectively across disciplines, synthesize interdisciplinary ideas, and develop novel neurorobotics applications to treat a variety of different neuromuscular impairments. Specific technical skills will depend on your individual project, but you will be exposed to all of the following to some degree: Computer-aided Design (CAD), 3D-printing, soldering, printed circuit boards (PCBs), electrophysiology, artificial neural networks, deep learning, embedded systems and programming in MATLAB, LabVIEW, Arduino and Python. All students will also receive training in human-subjects research and responsible conduct of research. Working in the Utah NeuroRobotics Lab is a great way to supplement your learning, boost your resume, and explore career options. To date, we have had 21 undergraduate students in the lab, who have collectively achieved 15 co-author abstracts, 18 first-author abstracts, 20 competitive fellowships, 7 competitive research awards, 8 co-author manuscripts, and 1 first-author manuscript! You can learn more about our current undergraduate students and our alumni, as well as their contributions, on our website.

Project Duration:

35-40 hours per week on research and program-related activities, begins May 25, 2022, and ends August 4, 2022

Minimum Requirements:

Admission to the program is competitive. Applicants must meet all of the following criteria: 1) be a matriculated, degree-seeking undergraduate student in the Fall 2022 semester (beginning or continuing college career in Fall 2022 and not graduating before December 2022; concurrent enrollment while in high school does not meet this eligibility requirement). Applicants do not need to be a University of Utah student. 2) eligible to work in the United States: If you are a University of Utah Dreamer (with or without DACA), you are eligible to participate. U Dreamers with DACA will be hired and paid through U payroll. U Dreamers without DACA who graduated from a Utah high school will be compensated via a different mechanism. If you are a Dreamer from a different institution: If you have DACA, you are eligible to participate and will be hired and paid though U payroll. If you do not have DACA, you are able to participate and gain research experience, but we do not currently have a mechanism that allows us to compensate you. For more information, please contact Megan Shannahan at megan.shannahan@utah.edu or 801-581-2478. If you are an international student or scholar, you must either a) be a degree-seeking undergraduate student at the University of Utah, OR b) possess documentation that establishes your eligibility to work in the United States (if you hold US citizenship, it is likely you have these documents). 3) able to commit to approximately 35-40 hours per week of employment at the University of Utah for the entire duration of the program (May 25-August 4, 2022). 4) at least 18 years old by May 23, 2022 (required if you wish to use on-campus housing; preferred if you will not be using on-campus housing).