Thanks to a just-announced grant from the National Science Foundation, for the next three summers, college students from across the country will have the opportunity to work alongside Johns Hopkins University engineers and computer scientists, conducting hands-on research in the field of medical robotics. The 10-week program, Research Experience for Undergraduates in Computational Sensing and Medical Robotics (REU CS&MR), will be held on JHU’s Homewood campus and is designed to prepare students for graduate studies in a range of disciplines at the interface of engineering and health care delivery.
Undergraduate participants from colleges, universities, and community colleges will be matched with research projects from a JHU’s robotics labs will be assigned to a research team, comprising of a Whiting School of Engineering faculty member and graduate student, undergraduates from other schools, and high school students and teachers. Though specific projects have not been determined yet, previous projects have included helping surgical doctors make operations more effective and less error prone by using modern computation, sensing and robotics tools, as well as aiding people with disabilities regain some of their lost functions by using artificial limbs.
In addition to conducting graduate-level research, participants also will receive training in technical writing, oral presentations, and research ethics and will have the chance to tour labs at Johns Hopkins Hospital and at JHU’s Applied Physics Laboratory, as well as visit local robotics and biotech companies.
Ralph Etienne-Cummings, the program’s principal investigator and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering wants the experience to encourage the participants to pursue careers in academia, saying that, “We hope to expose these students to the joys and challenges of graduate research and that they will choose to continue their studies and complete advanced degrees in engineering, robotics and medical sciences.”
True to the program’s intent, participants have gone on to further studies and careers in the field. Jamal Molin, who received his PhD in electrical and computer engineering at Johns Hopkins in 2018 and took part in the program, says, “The experience truly intrigued me and set the foundation for me to eventually pursue and complete my PhD at Johns Hopkins, and also in the same lab I worked in as an REU student, under Professor Etienne-Cummings.”
John Rattray, now a doctoral candidate in electrical and computer engineering, is also a program alum.
“My REU CS&MR experience was one of the first opportunities where I felt a genuine push to fully realize my abilities to explore and innovate,” Rattray said. “The experience of being presented with a problem and being tasked to solve it not as just an exercise but because a solution did not exist was extremely motivating and empowering.”
Muyinatu Bell, assistant professor of ECE is the project co-principal investigator. Program partners include Computer-Integrated Surgical Systems and Technology Engineering Research Center and Laboratory for Computational Sensing and Robotics, as well as faculty members from multiple WSE departments, including the Departments of Biomedical Engineering, Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering.