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  COVID-19 Information and Resources for ECE Students, Faculty, and Staff

Congratulations, Class of 2021!

UW ECE Graduation was held Wednesday, June 9. In case you missed it, a recording of the virtual celebration is available on our website.

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Congratulations, Class of 2021! Banner

Rajesh Rao receives Weill Neurohub grant to develop a ‘brain co-processor’

UW ECE faculty member Rajesh Rao has received funding to develop a new type of brain-computer interface, which uses artificial intelligence to restore brain function.

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Rajesh Rao receives Weill Neurohub grant to develop a ‘brain co-processor’ Banner

Rico Malvar from Microsoft to speak at UW ECE Graduation

Henrique (Rico) Malvar, a Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft, will be guest speaker at UW ECE’s graduation ceremony, which will be held virtually on Wednesday, June 9, 2021.

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Rico Malvar from Microsoft to speak at UW ECE Graduation Banner

Sam Burden receives NSF CAREER award to advance human-machine collaboration and broaden participation of underrepresented students in STEM

UW ECE assistant professor Sam Burden has received a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, one of the most prestigious awards in the nation for early-career faculty.

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Sam Burden receives NSF CAREER award to advance human-machine collaboration and broaden participation of underrepresented students in STEM Banner

UW ECE Professor Bruce Darling discusses mobility and transportation engineering

As lead faculty adviser for the UW Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) team, Darling oversees a group of students competing in the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge, a rigorous four-year-long endeavor.

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UW ECE Professor Bruce Darling discusses mobility and transportation engineering Banner

The impact of neurotechnology

UW ECE senior postdoctoral researcher Dr. Fatma Inanici (left) applies electrical stimulation patches to the neck of research study participant Jessie Owen (right). Owen, who has a spinal cord injury, spoke at a recent roundtable about her decision to participate in this study and how neurotechnology has changed her life.

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The impact of neurotechnology Banner

News + Events

https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/congrats-class-of-2021/
Congratulations, Class of 2021!

Congratulations, Class of 2021!

UW ECE Graduation was held Wednesday, June 9. In case you missed it, a recording of the virtual celebration is available on our website.

https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/rajesh-rao-brain-co-processor/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/rico-malvar-uwece-graduation/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/sam-burden-nsf-career-award/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/the-impact-of-neurotechnology/
The impact of neurotechnology

The impact of neurotechnology

UW ECE senior postdoctoral researcher Dr. Fatma Inanici (left) applies electrical stimulation patches to the neck of research study participant Jessie Owen (right). Owen, who has a spinal cord injury, spoke at a recent roundtable about her decision to participate in this study and how neurotechnology has changed her life.

https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/mobility/
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UW ECE Virtual Graduation Celebration, Wednesday, June 9

Thank you to everyone who was able to join us for our UW ECE Graduation Celebration via Remo, Zoom and YouTube Live! In case you missed the event, you can view the video below or visit our Graduation page to watch speeches from UW ECE Professor and Chair Eric Klavins, UW ECE Graduation Guest Speaker Henrique (Rico) Malvar, and warm wishes from our UW ECE faculty and staff! To our graduating students, we wish you the best of luck in all of your future endeavors! View and download the Graduation event program! [post_title] => Congratulations, Class of 2021! [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => congrats-class-of-2021 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-06-11 10:13:42 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-06-11 17:13:42 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=22207 [menu_order] => 1 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 22039 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2021-05-27 13:38:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-05-27 20:38:21 [post_content] => Story by Wayne Gillam | UW ECE News [caption id="attachment_22041" align="alignright" width="600"]Rajesh Rao headshot Rajesh Rao, who is the C.J. and Elizabeth Hwang Endowed Professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering and the UW Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, recently received a two-year grant through the Weill Neurohub. The grant will allow Rao and his collaborators to develop a new type of brain-computer interface, called a “brain co-processor,” which uses artificial intelligence to restore brain function. Photo by Mark Stone, University of Washington[/caption] Rajesh Rao, who is the C.J. and Elizabeth Hwang Endowed Professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering and the UW Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, recently received a two-year grant through the Weill Neurohub. The grant will provide Rao and his collaborators with funding to develop a new type of brain-computer interface, which will be capable of restoring injured neural circuits in the brain. The interface, called a “brain co-processor,” couples artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, such as artificial neural networks, with their biological counterparts in the brain, allowing the co-processor and brain to learn alongside each other. This innovative approach offers a new way to heal the brain, restore function and even augment the brain’s ability to process information. Rao, who is also co-director of the Center for Neurotechnology, will be collaborating with professor Anca Dragan, an artificial intelligence and robotics expert at UC Berkeley and Dr. Karunesh Ganguly, a specialist in neurological rehabilitation at UC San Francisco. The team will work together to develop this novel conceptual framework and test its viability in the lab. “This is the first time that the concept of a brain co-processor will be tested in actual brains using animal models,” Rao said. “Recent advances in AI, especially in artificial neural networks and in neuroscience make this an opportune time to embark on such a project. We now have technologies that can record from and electrically stimulate neurons in the brain at a large scale in precise ways. We couldn’t do that before.”

A new type of brain-computer interface

Contrary to what many people might think, brain-computer interfaces have been around for a long time in research lab settings, pioneered in the 1960s by individuals such as UW professor Eberhard Fetz. Scientists and engineers recognized the potential of these devices early on. And they have been working steadily toward developing brain-computer interfaces capable of healing the brain after injury and augmenting its function. One of the main difficulties researchers face in regard to this ambitious goal is that the brain is a dynamic, ever-changing system. The approximately 100 billion neurons that make up the human brain don’t stay in one place over time. They move and sway, much like tree branches in a wind, while growing and forming new connections rapidly and continuously. In recent years, scientists and engineers have made great strides, improving the reliability and precision of neural interfaces and deepening our understanding of how the brain works. However, forming a robust interface between the brain and a device capable of assisting a user in real life with complex tasks and goals such as operating a touch-sensitive prosthetic, or recovering from spinal cord injury or stroke, is still a major challenge. To address this challenge, Rao and his Weill Neurohub team are developing and testing the model Rao has built for a brain co-processor. Their approach differs from traditional brain-computer interfaces in that it uses deep (machine) learning or an artificial neural network to learn and adapt alongside the brain. The brain co-processor accomplishes this feat by simultaneously recording information from neurons, “reading” the current state of the brain, while at the same time pulling data and feedback from the external environment that is relevant to the purpose for which it is intended. The device processes all of this information, learning and adapting through an “emulator network” — a system within the co-processor that uses reinforcement or error feedback to learn in much the same way as the human brain does — to accomplish a task or goal shared by both the user and the device. That task or goal could be anything from helping the user operate a brain-controlled prosthetic arm, bridge damaged neural pathways after a spinal cord injury, or strengthen neural connections to recover from a stroke. “Overall, this is a very broad way of having a device interact directly with the brain, using AI as a way to mediate this interaction,” Rao said. “Ultimately, what we’re doing here is augmenting the capacity of the brain to process information.” [caption id="attachment_22044" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Illustration comparing a traditional BCI to a brain co-processor Brain co-processors could be used for many purposes, including operating prosthetics, restoring vision in the blind, improving function after stroke or spinal cord injury or treating psychiatric disorders. This example illustrates how a traditional brain-computer interface (BCI, top illustration) for control of a prosthetic limb uses neural recordings to interpret the user’s intention to move the prosthetic and then activates the device accordingly. In contrast, a brain co-processor for control of a prosthetic limb (bottom illustration) uses artificial intelligence algorithms, such as artificial neural networks, to combine data from touch-sensitive sensors on the prosthetic limb (external information source), with neural recordings from the brain. The brain co-processor then computes appropriate electrical stimulation patterns for the brain as well as commands for the prosthetic limb (the external actuator), providing a richer sensory experience for the user and a finer level of control. Illustration from the "Handbook of Neuroengineering," N.V. Thakor, A. Garg, S. Nargund, C. Nuan (eds.), 2021[/caption]

Human impact, ethical considerations and future plans

Assuming that the research team’s experiments verify their initial computer simulations, brain co-processors could set the standard for a new class of brain-computer interfaces, helping to move these devices out of the lab and into real-world applications. And the possibilities for human impact are vast. Brain co-processors could facilitate new and better treatments for a wide array of neurological conditions and disorders that affect physical mobility such as Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, spinal cord injury and stroke, as well as a host of psychiatric conditions such as depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and bipolar illness. In theory, anything brain-related could potentially stand to benefit from a brain co-processor. With the above in mind, augmenting a healthy human brain with a brain co-processor also becomes a very real possibility. How would you like to improve your memory, learn a second language in half the time it would normally take to learn or perhaps even expand your vision beyond the visible spectrum? Although this may sound like science fiction, Rao’s project will contribute toward building the foundational knowledge needed to make these things a reality. And as one might imagine, devices this powerful come with an array of ethical issues and considerations such as individual identity and agency, neural security and privacy, and social equity. Rao takes these issues seriously and describes them in detail in a recent chapter in the “Handbook of Neuroengineering.” “Some of the most important questions are ethical ones that, unfortunately, the field of neurotechnology has not paid as much attention to as it should in the enthusiasm to surge ahead with whatever the next big breakthrough is,” Rao said. “I think one of the most important contributions from our Center for Neurotechnology has been that we’ve always put ethics up front, and we’ve made sure that it is part of the design process for any neural device that we build. The design of brain co-processors is no exception.” Rao said that he sees development of brain co-processors as a long-term, multigenerational effort full of opportunities for collaboration because of the complexity of the undertaking. Besides his current collaborators at the UW, UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley, he will collaborate on this line of research in the future with members of the neuroethics research team at the Center for Neurotechnology and UW ECE faculty members such as Chet Moritz, Amy Orsborn and Azadeh Yazdan, who are all currently involved in other Weill Neurohub projects and related brain-computer interface research and development. Rao is also planning to bring one or more UW ECE graduate and undergraduate students on-board to assist with the project, and he noted the opportunities available for students across multiple disciplines. “I’m really excited about this research area, and I think there’s lots of interesting, open questions that require input from all the smart, young minds out there interested in neural engineering,” Rao said. “In particular, this is a great area for students to get involved in because of the novel combination of artificial intelligence with biological intelligence. I think there are many opportunities for students with diverse backgrounds to make significant contributions due to the multidisciplinary nature of research on brain co-processors.” To learn more about this Weill Neurohub project and related work at the Center for Neurotechnology, contact Rajesh Rao. [post_title] => Rajesh Rao receives Weill Neurohub grant to develop a ‘brain co-processor’ [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => rajesh-rao-brain-co-processor [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-06-01 17:21:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-06-02 00:21:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=22039 [menu_order] => 3 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21972 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2021-05-19 12:05:32 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-05-19 19:05:32 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_21973" align="alignright" width="550"]Rico Malvar headshot Henrique (Rico) Malvar, who is a Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft, will be guest speaker at UW ECE’s graduation ceremony, which will be held virtually on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Malvar will share experiences from his long and successful career and talk about the importance of giving back to others.[/caption] The University of Washington Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering is proud to announce Henrique (Rico) Malvar, Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft, as our guest speaker for the 2021 UW ECE graduation ceremony. The celebration will be held virtually on Wednesday, June 9, and it will be presided over by UW ECE Professor and Chair Eric Klavins. Malvar is a research and industry leader who is known for his work in signal processing and data compression. He is also a strong advocate for expanding diversity in engineering and developing accessible technology. Malvar currently leads the Microsoft Research Enable group, which aims to empower people living with disabilities. His past roles include being Chief Scientist for Microsoft Research and Managing Director of Microsoft Research Redmond. Malvar joined Microsoft Research in 1997 and founded the company’s signal processing group, which developed new technologies such as media compression formats used in Windows, Xbox and Office, as well as audio technologies used in Windows, Xbox, Kinect and HoloLens. He also made key contributions to developing compressed file formats used by most web video services today. In addition to these notable professional accomplishments, he has published over 170 technical articles and has been issued over 120 patents. Before joining Microsoft, Malvar was Vice President of Research and Advanced Technology at PictureTel (later acquired by Poly). Prior to that, he headed the Digital Signal Processing research group at Universidade de Brasília, Brazil. He received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science from the Research Laboratory of Electronics at MIT, a M.Sc. in electrical engineering from the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro and a B.S. in electrical engineering from the Universidade de Brasília. “We chose Rico as speaker because he embodies excellence and dedication to the profession of engineering,” Klavins said. “He also exemplifies the kind of impact we hope our students will make on the world, engineering with social good in mind and helping to make technology accessible for all.” Malvar has been a tremendous supporter of UW ECE for many years, serving as a key connection between Microsoft and the Department, and generously giving his time, talent and expertise. He has been a UW ECE affiliate professor since 1999 and served as chair of the UW ECE Advisory Board from 2012–2019. He also served on the UW College of Engineering’s Dean’s Visiting Committee from 2016–2019. In 2018, Malvar played a leading role in helping UW ECE to update its identity and change its name to better reflect the breadth of the Department. He continues to remain a pillar of support for UW ECE and is currently engaged with advising the Department on reputation-building initiatives. Malvar is widely recognized for his leadership roles in an array of professional and academic associations. In addition to his involvement with UW ECE, he is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the Washington State Academy of Sciences, the Brazilian National Academy of Engineering and the Brazilian Academy of Sciences. He is an IEEE Fellow and has received many awards, including a Technical Achievement Award from the IEEE Signal Processing Society and the 20th Century Landmark Award from the IEEE Seattle Section in 2014. Malvar has a large number of achievements to his name and a wealth of experience to share. We look forward to hearing him speak at UW ECE Graduation about his long and illustrious career and the importance he places on giving back to others. [post_title] => Rico Malvar from Microsoft to speak at UW ECE Graduation [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => rico-malvar-uwece-graduation [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-05-21 10:40:45 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-05-21 17:40:45 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21972 [menu_order] => 4 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21878 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2021-04-28 16:19:04 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-04-28 23:19:04 [post_content] => Story by Wayne Gillam | UW ECE News [caption id="attachment_21881" align="alignright" width="550"]Sam Burden sitting in a chair and smiling UW ECE assistant professor Sam Burden was recently named as a recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, one of the most prestigious awards in the nation for early-career faculty. 2017 photo by Mark Stone[/caption] UW ECE assistant professor Sam Burden was recently named as a recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, one of the most prestigious awards in the nation for early-career faculty. The award will fund research by Burden that seeks to build fundamental knowledge related to human-machine interaction as well as education and outreach initiatives aimed at broadening participation of underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). “I am thrilled and honored to have my proposal selected for funding,” Burden said. “The award holds special significance for me, as it will merge two disparate threads of research I started while working on my doctoral degree, and it will expand opportunities for students to be exposed to and involved in this research.” The NSF selects award recipients who are faculty members at the beginning of their careers with the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. The intent of the NSF CAREER program is to provide stable support, enabling awardees to develop their careers not only as outstanding researchers, but also as educators demonstrating commitment to teaching, learning and dissemination of knowledge. The award spans five years, and it will enable Burden to integrate his research and education goals, contributing to his stated long-term career goal of enhancing human interaction with the physical world through machines.

Building foundational knowledge for human-machine interaction

[caption id="attachment_21883" align="alignleft" width="550"]Sam Burden talking to a group of people in the AMP Lab Burden at the opening of the UW AMP Lab, where research supported by the award, experiments involving human/machine interaction, will take place. 2017 photo by Mark Stone[/caption] A remotely operated airplane, a self-driving car on a smooth road, or a Roomba cleaning the floors in your house are all examples of machinery that function well in an unchanging environment where contact with the surroundings is continuously maintained. But what happens when contact with the environment is intermittent or conditions change? Programming a robot or a machine, whether remotely operated by a human or operating independently, to handle “contact-rich dynamics” such as this is much more difficult to do. For example, making a legged robot walk up and down stairs or travel over rough, unpredictable terrain in natural environments has proven to be a very tough problem for engineers. “Every time a robot or machine touches something new, more constraints are introduced into the system and the dynamics change abruptly,” Burden said. “That’s a fundamentally challenging problem for systems that function independently, let alone systems that combine human and machine intelligence.” Burden seeks to address this challenge. In the research supported by the award, he is aiming to build a better understanding of how humans control remotely operated robots and machinery when the system makes intermittent contact with its environment under variable conditions. The knowledge gained can be applied to both remotely operated and autonomous systems. This will help to inform development of useful devices such as robots and machinery that could efficiently deliver packages and move around a city, assist with disaster recovery or remote surgeries, or even operate as caregivers in people’s homes. “Through our experiments we’ll learn more about what a person’s control strategy is while they are tele-operating a robot or machinery,” Burden said. “We’ll learn what information is useful to them, what information is irrelevant for that task, and then we’ll adapt the machine interface to improve performance, with the human still in the loop.” There is a wide range of potential applications for this knowledge, but Burden said that he sees this work being particularly useful for neural engineering in assistive devices, enabling better two-way communication between brain and machine, and with rehabilitation after bodily injury. “To put a finer point on it, this research could help inform development of an active leg brace for when you sprain your ankle, or a neuroprosthetic for when you lose a limb, or a rehabilitation robot to help take care of you after an accident,” Burden said. Burden and his team will build and test mathematical models for contact-rich dynamics both in theory and with human test subjects interacting with machines. The real-life experiments will take place at the AMP Lab on the UW campus, where Burden’s robotic testbed is located.

Broadening participation of underrepresented students in STEM

[caption id="attachment_21885" align="alignright" width="550"]Three students sitting at a desk and working on laptops Education and outreach initiatives are also important components of the work supported by the award. Burden stated that he feels a strong commitment to these efforts as a first-generation college student who benefited in high school from a UW summer institute for mathematics. The initiatives also connect well with his role as UW ECE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator. 2016 photo by Mark Stone, courtesy of the Center for Neurotechnology[/caption] Education and outreach initiatives are also important components of the work supported by the award. Burden stated that he feels a strong commitment to these efforts as a first-generation college student who benefited in high school from a UW summer institute for mathematics. The initiatives also connect well with his role as UW ECE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator. “There’s so much scientific advancement and technological innovation that we are missing out on because of systemic exclusion and marginalization of large groups of people,” Burden said. “I’m certain that I wouldn’t be here in this job if that door hadn’t been opened for me, and so, I’m eager to open as many of those doors as I can for other people.” Burden is already heavily involved in UW College of Engineering K–12 outreach programs such as Engineering Discovery Days and outreach tailored specifically for underrepresented students such as the STARS program. And at UW ECE, he has co-led efforts to expand diversity, equity and inclusion with colleagues such as Niveditha Kalavakonda. The support he receives from the award will allow him to take this work even further over the next five years. “I was very deliberate in putting together the education and outreach component supported by the award,” Burden said. “I chose initiatives that were evidence-based, that have proven successful in other contexts, and that build-up or expand on existing programs.” [caption id="attachment_21887" align="alignleft" width="550"]A man demonstrates a device in front of a group of K–12 students Engineering Discovery Days at the UW College of Engineering. The award will enable Burden and his research team to expand their ability to regularly exhibit and present at public events such as these. 2018 photo by Sam Burden[/caption] The award will enable Burden and his research team to expand their ability to regularly exhibit and present at public events involving large numbers of students, families and teachers, such as Engineering Discovery Days and UW Math Day. It also will provide resources for Burden to create a new site for an alternative spring break program run by Riverways, a K–12 outreach program that connects UW undergraduate students with educational and service opportunities. The organization is part of the Community Engagement & Leadership Education Center at the UW, and it has relationships with a number of middle schools and high schools in Latinx and tribal communities across the state. “One thing I like about the NSF award is that it’s not draining resources from Riverways,” Burden said. “It’s providing an external source of additional funding to help expand the program.” In the STARS program, Burden has already coordinated a faculty mentorship network, which matches students with UW faculty who are from departments the students have expressed an interest in. He is planning to use support from the award to help some of these students be placed in research labs within their first two years at the UW. This will give STARS students an immersive, hands-on educational experience right at the start of their academic journey. Burden has placed a strong focus on cooperating across campus to create, improve and build upon existing outreach programs. And when talking about the NSF CAREER award, the research it supports and the education and outreach initiatives it enables, he repeatedly emphasizes the importance of working together to achieve mutually agreed upon goals. “None of my work would be possible without the mentorship and leadership provided by my advisers and teachers, nor without the support and structure provided by UW ECE, nor without the creativity and energy provided by my students and collaborators,” Burden said. “I am simultaneously deeply humbled and proud to be a part of such a diverse, intellectual community.” To learn more about the research, education and outreach programs supported by this NSF CAREER award or to discuss ongoing work expanding diversity, equity and inclusion at UW ECE, contact Sam Burden. [post_title] => Sam Burden receives NSF CAREER award to advance human-machine collaboration and broaden participation of underrepresented students in STEM [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => sam-burden-nsf-career-award [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-04-28 16:23:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-04-28 23:23:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21878 [menu_order] => 5 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21757 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2021-04-19 09:58:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-04-19 16:58:05 [post_content] => Story by Wayne Gillam | UW ECE News [caption id="attachment_21762" align="alignright" width="600"]Fatma Inanici applies a patch to the back of Jessie Owen's neck Jessie Owen (right), who has a spinal cord injury, spoke at a recent roundtable about her decision to participate in a research study led by UW ECE senior postdoctoral researcher Dr. Fatma Inanici in the lab of UW ECE associate professor Chet Moritz. This study was funded by the Center for Neurotechnology, which Moritz co-directs and of which Dr. Inanici is a member. Owen described what the experience was like and how neurotechnology has impacted her life. In this photo, Dr. Inanici is applying small patches that will deliver electrical currents on the surface of the skin, over the injured area in Owen’s neck. This electrical stimulation helps the brain to reestablish connections with nerves in the spinal cord. 2018 photo by Marcus Donner[/caption] At the age of 27, Jessie Owen was in a devastating car accident that left her with a severe spinal cord injury. She lost much of the function in her hands, arms and legs, and she was diagnosed with central spinal cord syndrome. Her brain’s ability to send and receive signals to and from the parts of her body below her neck was severely impaired. She had to take a leave of absence from her job as a teacher, and she has since been dependent on a wheelchair and caregivers for day-to-day living. In 2018–19 she participated in a groundbreaking research study led by UW ECE senior postdoctoral researcher Dr. Fatma Inanici in the lab of UW ECE associate professor Chet Moritz. This study was funded by the Center for Neurotechnology, which Moritz co-directs and of which Dr. Inanici is a member. In the study, the research team used a device provided by the Center’s industry affiliate Onward to apply noninvasive, electrical stimulation to the site of Owen’s spinal cord injury. This was aimed at improving her hand and arm function. Owen experienced significant functional gains as a result of participating in the study, which enabled her to live much more independently. Owen spoke at the Spring 2021 CNT End-user Roundtable, which is a space for CNT students, faculty and staff to learn from people with disabilities and potential end users of neurotechnology. The event was organized by CNT Associate Director of Diversity Scott Bellman and moderated by Moritz. Owen took questions from the audience about her decision to participate in the study, what the experience was like for her and how it has impacted her life. Below this video, which shows how Owen benefited from participating in the study, are some questions from the Roundtable audience and Owen’s responses, lightly edited for clarity. Welcome to the CNT End-user Roundtable, Jessie! We appreciate you taking the time today to be with us. Thank you! I’m happy to be here. So, let me tell you a little bit about how I got to be here. At the very end of December 2012, I was in a car accident going over Highway 2 here in Washington. A tree fell on our car, and I sustained a severe spinal cord injury. I broke my neck at the C3 / C4 level. I went to Harborview Medical Center, and I was at Harborview for three to four months. By the time I left, I still had not gained enough function back to drive a power wheelchair with my hand. I was still driving it with my chin. And then, I got into a skilled nursing facility because I had some broken bones, and I had some other things that needed to heal. For about two years after that time, I did exercise therapy the best I could. I was able to go from a chin drive to a hand drive on my wheelchair. And I did learn to stand, to get up from chairs and transfer [from one seat to another], but my hand function was still pretty low. I have central spinal cord syndrome, so my legs tend to work a little bit better than my arms, which was great in some ways but frustrating in others. So, I was living with a friend at the time as I continued exercise therapy. I stayed stagnant in my recovery for about two years. I learned to walk a little bit with crutches, but I was definitely using my power wheelchair all the time because it’s not like I could open a door, or grab things, or cook or any of those things. [caption id="attachment_21768" align="alignright" width="500"]Chet Moritz and Dr. Inanici watch study participant Jon Schlueter complete a grip-test Moritz (left) and Dr. Inanici (center) observe as Jon Schlueter (right), a participant who took part in the same study as Owen, measures grip strength by squeezing the device in his hand. Schlueter has sensors on his arms (black cases) to measure his arm muscle activity during the task. 2019 photo by Marcus Donner[/caption] What brought you to the study? I strongly believe that if we want to see change in the spinal cord community and in science, I need to be an active participant. And so over the years, I participated in some studies whenever they came up. When this one with Chet and Fatma came up, I met with them, and they said I might be a good candidate because I had some function in my hands, even though I didn’t have great function. What did you expect from the study? Honestly, I didn’t expect a lot out of it. We just don’t know enough scientifically about how to treat spinal cord injuries, so I thought that it was just going to be a “feel good” experience for me because I was doing my part to help advance science. It was about two years ago when I participated in this study, and I experienced way more results than I anticipated. In that time, I was able to go from living with a friend to buying my own house, to living independently, to receiving at least 50% less caregiving. My hand function is still not 100%, it’s not, but it has improved enough to allow me to do a lot of different things, and it has made a significant impact in my life, and that is why I’m here. [caption id="attachment_21771" align="alignleft" width="500"]A woman works on fine motor skills using children's blocks while an undergraduate researcher oversees Owen practices her fine motor skills by using children’s blocks while UW undergraduate researcher Megan Knoernschild reviews data on the electrical stimulation device provided by Center for Neurotechnology industry affiliate Onward. 2018 photo by Marcus Donner[/caption] Could you give us some examples of some things that you couldn’t do before the study but that you can do now? Yeah, you know, there are so many of them. One is that I can cook now. I still don’t take anything out of the oven (that’s pretty scary), but I can do just about anything on the stovetop. I feel much more comfortable using a knife to cut something because even though my right hand is still pretty ridiculous, it’s open enough that I can stabilize an onion, while I carefully cut on the other side. I can tie my shoes. I can walk my dog easier because I can clip the leash on him. I can take pictures on my phone. I can actually open my hand and take pictures on my phone without it being a huge struggle. I started a journal, and now I write in it every day, about three to five sentences. That’s something that I could maybe do before the study, but it was so tedious. It still takes me longer than the average person, but it’s not so painful that it’s not enjoyable. I take my time, and I like writing. Another big one is that I’m a teacher, and before the study, I really struggled with figuring out how to teach without being able to write very well or use the technology because my fingers weren’t working. Now, I can point to things better, I can pick stuff up and write more quickly. I feel more confident as a teacher because I have just that little bit more hand function that allows me to do more. Do you still receive spinal stimulation? If not, were you able to keep the functional gains you made in the study? I haven’t received any additional stimulation in the two years since the study. I would say that about 90% of my functional gains remain. I have a lot more hand function in my left hand. I can still keep my right hand open, and I can carefully grasp something with it. The progress I’ve made has sustained. I definitely haven’t gone down significantly, maybe a tiny bit right after the study ended, but I still have enough function for me to live as independently as possible. I’m still receiving 50% less care than I was before. I’ve honestly just been a lot happier. You’re happier when you have independence. When you start out with very little function, even regaining 30% more function at a very low level means a huge deal, so it’s been really meaningful for me to be able to keep the gains that I’ve made. [caption id="attachment_21773" align="alignright" width="500"]Three woman sitting around a table talking Owen, Dr. Inanici and Knoernschild discuss research data and electrical stimulation levels for the study. 2018 photo by Marcus Donner[/caption] What advice would you give to those considering enrolling in study similar to this one? (Read this UW News article for a more complete description of the study.) Honestly, I would say to do it. There’s no downside to this. It seems that the side effects are so minimal. I had super success with it, but even if you don’t, you’re not going to get worse. This is a huge opportunity, and it’s simple, it’s easy, and it doesn’t take a lot of time to set up. Do you have any closing thoughts? I’m really honored to be in a room with such hardworking and smart and dedicated individuals who are willing to spend time in their careers to make people’s lives better, and you do. You made a big impact on my life and how I get to live. I’m really grateful for the work that you do, and I’m happy to help. I really hope that this technology expands and becomes available to everyone and that we continue to take this as a stepping-stone and go even further with it. Learn more about Owen’s personal experience in the research study in this article. More information about the study is available at UW News, on the Restorative Technologies website and in this associated research paper. [post_title] => The impact of neurotechnology [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-impact-of-neurotechnology [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-04-19 09:58:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-04-19 16:58:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21757 [menu_order] => 6 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21696 [post_author] => 25 [post_date] => 2021-04-26 10:38:43 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-04-26 17:38:43 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_21698" align="alignright" width="235"] UW ECE Professor Bruce Darling, who took over as lead faculty adviser for the UW Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) team in 2019.[/caption] For almost a century, automotive engineering has fallen squarely within the purview of the mechanical engineering field. However, today’s automotive industry has evolved with the increasing need for top talent from a wide range of engineering disciplines including electrical, computer science and software engineering to develop advanced propulsion systems, electrification, autonomous technologies, vehicle connectivity and more. This is just one of the reasons why it made perfect sense for University of Washington Electrical & Computer Engineering (UW ECE) Professor Bruce Darling to take over as lead faculty adviser for the UW Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) team in 2019. Having been involved with previous competitions, Darling jumped at the chance to lead the team competing in The EcoCAR Mobility Challenge. “Mobility, and transportation engineering in general, is one of the most pressing needs of our time. It plays a large role in the impact of our species on the planet, and it is a fundamental aspect of our lives that enables social connection, essential services, recreation and commerce,” said Darling. “Vehicle electrification is one of those, along with the increased automation and connectivity that is essential for creating new systems for getting people where they want to go. The key factor here are systems and the need to tie it all together.” It’s no secret that participating in EcoCAR is a demanding undertaking for students, teams and faculty. It takes a multi-disciplinary team of talent with a wide array of engineering expertise to even compete. Students are tasked with completely re-engineering a vehicle to exacting standards in terms of handling, acceleration and fuel economy. It must be fully street legal and compliant with all government safety requirements and be able to withstand the many driving conditions a normal consumer would encounter.
"It is such a pleasure to be immersed in a group of students who are destined to have a real impact on the world.” -Bruce Darling
“Our car has more computing power under the hood than most workstations, and that software must be extremely reliable and run without any interruptions since it controls many of the advanced driver-assist functions like advanced cruise control, lane-keeping and early collision warnings,” he said. “Those systems are not like video games or toys or cell phone apps; they must work infallibly with 100 percent uptime because they are part of the life-safety envelope the vehicle provides and for which the driver and passengers count on.” In fact, many past UW grads who participated in EcoCAR have gone on to work at top software and IT companies. According to Darling, “EcoCAR alumni are some of the most sought-after graduates because they can come up to speed on new projects of this scale within only a few months, whereas new graduates without this experience might typically require several years. It makes a huge difference in one’s initial employment prospects, and once on the job, that experience accelerates one’s career by several years.” [caption id="attachment_21699" align="aligncenter" width="1163"] Darling with the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge team[/caption] Darling’s varied background, from working with start-ups to forensic engineering for NASA in the wake of the Columbia disaster, provides his students the benefit of working with someone who is keenly aware of how and why complicated systems fail and how to engineer systems able to withstand failures when they do happen. He also serves on the competitions Faculty Advisory Board, a position selected by his peers, to help organizers develop the appropriate challenges for students. “These days I spend about 10 percent of my time worrying about how everything should work right and about 90 percent of the time worrying about what happens when things go wrong and how to design systems to gracefully handle those failures,” said Darling. So, with two and a half years into this four-year competition, what impresses him most about his team? “Without a doubt, it has been working with a team of student volunteers who put enormous time and dedication into the project. These are not the type who put in only the minimum effort to get by, they are the ones who are making every effort to maximize their education and achieve the most possible,” said Darling. “That’s an attitude which cultivates success, and it is such a pleasure to be immersed in a group of students who are destined to have a real impact on the world.” To learn more about Professor Darling and EcoCAR, visit: EcoCAR Mobility Challenge

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https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/congrats-class-of-2021/
Congratulations, Class of 2021!

Congratulations, Class of 2021!

UW ECE Graduation was held Wednesday, June 9. In case you missed it, a recording of the virtual celebration is available on our website.

https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/rajesh-rao-brain-co-processor/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/rico-malvar-uwece-graduation/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/sam-burden-nsf-career-award/
https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/the-impact-of-neurotechnology/
The impact of neurotechnology

The impact of neurotechnology

UW ECE senior postdoctoral researcher Dr. Fatma Inanici (left) applies electrical stimulation patches to the neck of research study participant Jessie Owen (right). Owen, who has a spinal cord injury, spoke at a recent roundtable about her decision to participate in this study and how neurotechnology has changed her life.

https://www.ece.uw.edu/spotlight/mobility/
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UW ECE Virtual Graduation Celebration, Wednesday, June 9

Thank you to everyone who was able to join us for our UW ECE Graduation Celebration via Remo, Zoom and YouTube Live! In case you missed the event, you can view the video below or visit our Graduation page to watch speeches from UW ECE Professor and Chair Eric Klavins, UW ECE Graduation Guest Speaker Henrique (Rico) Malvar, and warm wishes from our UW ECE faculty and staff! To our graduating students, we wish you the best of luck in all of your future endeavors! View and download the Graduation event program! [post_title] => Congratulations, Class of 2021! [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => congrats-class-of-2021 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-06-11 10:13:42 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-06-11 17:13:42 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=22207 [menu_order] => 1 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 22039 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2021-05-27 13:38:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-05-27 20:38:21 [post_content] => Story by Wayne Gillam | UW ECE News [caption id="attachment_22041" align="alignright" width="600"]Rajesh Rao headshot Rajesh Rao, who is the C.J. and Elizabeth Hwang Endowed Professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering and the UW Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, recently received a two-year grant through the Weill Neurohub. The grant will allow Rao and his collaborators to develop a new type of brain-computer interface, called a “brain co-processor,” which uses artificial intelligence to restore brain function. Photo by Mark Stone, University of Washington[/caption] Rajesh Rao, who is the C.J. and Elizabeth Hwang Endowed Professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering and the UW Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, recently received a two-year grant through the Weill Neurohub. The grant will provide Rao and his collaborators with funding to develop a new type of brain-computer interface, which will be capable of restoring injured neural circuits in the brain. The interface, called a “brain co-processor,” couples artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, such as artificial neural networks, with their biological counterparts in the brain, allowing the co-processor and brain to learn alongside each other. This innovative approach offers a new way to heal the brain, restore function and even augment the brain’s ability to process information. Rao, who is also co-director of the Center for Neurotechnology, will be collaborating with professor Anca Dragan, an artificial intelligence and robotics expert at UC Berkeley and Dr. Karunesh Ganguly, a specialist in neurological rehabilitation at UC San Francisco. The team will work together to develop this novel conceptual framework and test its viability in the lab. “This is the first time that the concept of a brain co-processor will be tested in actual brains using animal models,” Rao said. “Recent advances in AI, especially in artificial neural networks and in neuroscience make this an opportune time to embark on such a project. We now have technologies that can record from and electrically stimulate neurons in the brain at a large scale in precise ways. We couldn’t do that before.”

A new type of brain-computer interface

Contrary to what many people might think, brain-computer interfaces have been around for a long time in research lab settings, pioneered in the 1960s by individuals such as UW professor Eberhard Fetz. Scientists and engineers recognized the potential of these devices early on. And they have been working steadily toward developing brain-computer interfaces capable of healing the brain after injury and augmenting its function. One of the main difficulties researchers face in regard to this ambitious goal is that the brain is a dynamic, ever-changing system. The approximately 100 billion neurons that make up the human brain don’t stay in one place over time. They move and sway, much like tree branches in a wind, while growing and forming new connections rapidly and continuously. In recent years, scientists and engineers have made great strides, improving the reliability and precision of neural interfaces and deepening our understanding of how the brain works. However, forming a robust interface between the brain and a device capable of assisting a user in real life with complex tasks and goals such as operating a touch-sensitive prosthetic, or recovering from spinal cord injury or stroke, is still a major challenge. To address this challenge, Rao and his Weill Neurohub team are developing and testing the model Rao has built for a brain co-processor. Their approach differs from traditional brain-computer interfaces in that it uses deep (machine) learning or an artificial neural network to learn and adapt alongside the brain. The brain co-processor accomplishes this feat by simultaneously recording information from neurons, “reading” the current state of the brain, while at the same time pulling data and feedback from the external environment that is relevant to the purpose for which it is intended. The device processes all of this information, learning and adapting through an “emulator network” — a system within the co-processor that uses reinforcement or error feedback to learn in much the same way as the human brain does — to accomplish a task or goal shared by both the user and the device. That task or goal could be anything from helping the user operate a brain-controlled prosthetic arm, bridge damaged neural pathways after a spinal cord injury, or strengthen neural connections to recover from a stroke. “Overall, this is a very broad way of having a device interact directly with the brain, using AI as a way to mediate this interaction,” Rao said. “Ultimately, what we’re doing here is augmenting the capacity of the brain to process information.” [caption id="attachment_22044" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Illustration comparing a traditional BCI to a brain co-processor Brain co-processors could be used for many purposes, including operating prosthetics, restoring vision in the blind, improving function after stroke or spinal cord injury or treating psychiatric disorders. This example illustrates how a traditional brain-computer interface (BCI, top illustration) for control of a prosthetic limb uses neural recordings to interpret the user’s intention to move the prosthetic and then activates the device accordingly. In contrast, a brain co-processor for control of a prosthetic limb (bottom illustration) uses artificial intelligence algorithms, such as artificial neural networks, to combine data from touch-sensitive sensors on the prosthetic limb (external information source), with neural recordings from the brain. The brain co-processor then computes appropriate electrical stimulation patterns for the brain as well as commands for the prosthetic limb (the external actuator), providing a richer sensory experience for the user and a finer level of control. Illustration from the "Handbook of Neuroengineering," N.V. Thakor, A. Garg, S. Nargund, C. Nuan (eds.), 2021[/caption]

Human impact, ethical considerations and future plans

Assuming that the research team’s experiments verify their initial computer simulations, brain co-processors could set the standard for a new class of brain-computer interfaces, helping to move these devices out of the lab and into real-world applications. And the possibilities for human impact are vast. Brain co-processors could facilitate new and better treatments for a wide array of neurological conditions and disorders that affect physical mobility such as Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, spinal cord injury and stroke, as well as a host of psychiatric conditions such as depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and bipolar illness. In theory, anything brain-related could potentially stand to benefit from a brain co-processor. With the above in mind, augmenting a healthy human brain with a brain co-processor also becomes a very real possibility. How would you like to improve your memory, learn a second language in half the time it would normally take to learn or perhaps even expand your vision beyond the visible spectrum? Although this may sound like science fiction, Rao’s project will contribute toward building the foundational knowledge needed to make these things a reality. And as one might imagine, devices this powerful come with an array of ethical issues and considerations such as individual identity and agency, neural security and privacy, and social equity. Rao takes these issues seriously and describes them in detail in a recent chapter in the “Handbook of Neuroengineering.” “Some of the most important questions are ethical ones that, unfortunately, the field of neurotechnology has not paid as much attention to as it should in the enthusiasm to surge ahead with whatever the next big breakthrough is,” Rao said. “I think one of the most important contributions from our Center for Neurotechnology has been that we’ve always put ethics up front, and we’ve made sure that it is part of the design process for any neural device that we build. The design of brain co-processors is no exception.” Rao said that he sees development of brain co-processors as a long-term, multigenerational effort full of opportunities for collaboration because of the complexity of the undertaking. Besides his current collaborators at the UW, UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley, he will collaborate on this line of research in the future with members of the neuroethics research team at the Center for Neurotechnology and UW ECE faculty members such as Chet Moritz, Amy Orsborn and Azadeh Yazdan, who are all currently involved in other Weill Neurohub projects and related brain-computer interface research and development. Rao is also planning to bring one or more UW ECE graduate and undergraduate students on-board to assist with the project, and he noted the opportunities available for students across multiple disciplines. “I’m really excited about this research area, and I think there’s lots of interesting, open questions that require input from all the smart, young minds out there interested in neural engineering,” Rao said. “In particular, this is a great area for students to get involved in because of the novel combination of artificial intelligence with biological intelligence. I think there are many opportunities for students with diverse backgrounds to make significant contributions due to the multidisciplinary nature of research on brain co-processors.” To learn more about this Weill Neurohub project and related work at the Center for Neurotechnology, contact Rajesh Rao. [post_title] => Rajesh Rao receives Weill Neurohub grant to develop a ‘brain co-processor’ [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => rajesh-rao-brain-co-processor [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-06-01 17:21:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-06-02 00:21:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=22039 [menu_order] => 3 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21972 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2021-05-19 12:05:32 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-05-19 19:05:32 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_21973" align="alignright" width="550"]Rico Malvar headshot Henrique (Rico) Malvar, who is a Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft, will be guest speaker at UW ECE’s graduation ceremony, which will be held virtually on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Malvar will share experiences from his long and successful career and talk about the importance of giving back to others.[/caption] The University of Washington Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering is proud to announce Henrique (Rico) Malvar, Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft, as our guest speaker for the 2021 UW ECE graduation ceremony. The celebration will be held virtually on Wednesday, June 9, and it will be presided over by UW ECE Professor and Chair Eric Klavins. Malvar is a research and industry leader who is known for his work in signal processing and data compression. He is also a strong advocate for expanding diversity in engineering and developing accessible technology. Malvar currently leads the Microsoft Research Enable group, which aims to empower people living with disabilities. His past roles include being Chief Scientist for Microsoft Research and Managing Director of Microsoft Research Redmond. Malvar joined Microsoft Research in 1997 and founded the company’s signal processing group, which developed new technologies such as media compression formats used in Windows, Xbox and Office, as well as audio technologies used in Windows, Xbox, Kinect and HoloLens. He also made key contributions to developing compressed file formats used by most web video services today. In addition to these notable professional accomplishments, he has published over 170 technical articles and has been issued over 120 patents. Before joining Microsoft, Malvar was Vice President of Research and Advanced Technology at PictureTel (later acquired by Poly). Prior to that, he headed the Digital Signal Processing research group at Universidade de Brasília, Brazil. He received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science from the Research Laboratory of Electronics at MIT, a M.Sc. in electrical engineering from the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro and a B.S. in electrical engineering from the Universidade de Brasília. “We chose Rico as speaker because he embodies excellence and dedication to the profession of engineering,” Klavins said. “He also exemplifies the kind of impact we hope our students will make on the world, engineering with social good in mind and helping to make technology accessible for all.” Malvar has been a tremendous supporter of UW ECE for many years, serving as a key connection between Microsoft and the Department, and generously giving his time, talent and expertise. He has been a UW ECE affiliate professor since 1999 and served as chair of the UW ECE Advisory Board from 2012–2019. He also served on the UW College of Engineering’s Dean’s Visiting Committee from 2016–2019. In 2018, Malvar played a leading role in helping UW ECE to update its identity and change its name to better reflect the breadth of the Department. He continues to remain a pillar of support for UW ECE and is currently engaged with advising the Department on reputation-building initiatives. Malvar is widely recognized for his leadership roles in an array of professional and academic associations. In addition to his involvement with UW ECE, he is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the Washington State Academy of Sciences, the Brazilian National Academy of Engineering and the Brazilian Academy of Sciences. He is an IEEE Fellow and has received many awards, including a Technical Achievement Award from the IEEE Signal Processing Society and the 20th Century Landmark Award from the IEEE Seattle Section in 2014. Malvar has a large number of achievements to his name and a wealth of experience to share. We look forward to hearing him speak at UW ECE Graduation about his long and illustrious career and the importance he places on giving back to others. [post_title] => Rico Malvar from Microsoft to speak at UW ECE Graduation [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => rico-malvar-uwece-graduation [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-05-21 10:40:45 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-05-21 17:40:45 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21972 [menu_order] => 4 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21878 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2021-04-28 16:19:04 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-04-28 23:19:04 [post_content] => Story by Wayne Gillam | UW ECE News [caption id="attachment_21881" align="alignright" width="550"]Sam Burden sitting in a chair and smiling UW ECE assistant professor Sam Burden was recently named as a recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, one of the most prestigious awards in the nation for early-career faculty. 2017 photo by Mark Stone[/caption] UW ECE assistant professor Sam Burden was recently named as a recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, one of the most prestigious awards in the nation for early-career faculty. The award will fund research by Burden that seeks to build fundamental knowledge related to human-machine interaction as well as education and outreach initiatives aimed at broadening participation of underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). “I am thrilled and honored to have my proposal selected for funding,” Burden said. “The award holds special significance for me, as it will merge two disparate threads of research I started while working on my doctoral degree, and it will expand opportunities for students to be exposed to and involved in this research.” The NSF selects award recipients who are faculty members at the beginning of their careers with the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. The intent of the NSF CAREER program is to provide stable support, enabling awardees to develop their careers not only as outstanding researchers, but also as educators demonstrating commitment to teaching, learning and dissemination of knowledge. The award spans five years, and it will enable Burden to integrate his research and education goals, contributing to his stated long-term career goal of enhancing human interaction with the physical world through machines.

Building foundational knowledge for human-machine interaction

[caption id="attachment_21883" align="alignleft" width="550"]Sam Burden talking to a group of people in the AMP Lab Burden at the opening of the UW AMP Lab, where research supported by the award, experiments involving human/machine interaction, will take place. 2017 photo by Mark Stone[/caption] A remotely operated airplane, a self-driving car on a smooth road, or a Roomba cleaning the floors in your house are all examples of machinery that function well in an unchanging environment where contact with the surroundings is continuously maintained. But what happens when contact with the environment is intermittent or conditions change? Programming a robot or a machine, whether remotely operated by a human or operating independently, to handle “contact-rich dynamics” such as this is much more difficult to do. For example, making a legged robot walk up and down stairs or travel over rough, unpredictable terrain in natural environments has proven to be a very tough problem for engineers. “Every time a robot or machine touches something new, more constraints are introduced into the system and the dynamics change abruptly,” Burden said. “That’s a fundamentally challenging problem for systems that function independently, let alone systems that combine human and machine intelligence.” Burden seeks to address this challenge. In the research supported by the award, he is aiming to build a better understanding of how humans control remotely operated robots and machinery when the system makes intermittent contact with its environment under variable conditions. The knowledge gained can be applied to both remotely operated and autonomous systems. This will help to inform development of useful devices such as robots and machinery that could efficiently deliver packages and move around a city, assist with disaster recovery or remote surgeries, or even operate as caregivers in people’s homes. “Through our experiments we’ll learn more about what a person’s control strategy is while they are tele-operating a robot or machinery,” Burden said. “We’ll learn what information is useful to them, what information is irrelevant for that task, and then we’ll adapt the machine interface to improve performance, with the human still in the loop.” There is a wide range of potential applications for this knowledge, but Burden said that he sees this work being particularly useful for neural engineering in assistive devices, enabling better two-way communication between brain and machine, and with rehabilitation after bodily injury. “To put a finer point on it, this research could help inform development of an active leg brace for when you sprain your ankle, or a neuroprosthetic for when you lose a limb, or a rehabilitation robot to help take care of you after an accident,” Burden said. Burden and his team will build and test mathematical models for contact-rich dynamics both in theory and with human test subjects interacting with machines. The real-life experiments will take place at the AMP Lab on the UW campus, where Burden’s robotic testbed is located.

Broadening participation of underrepresented students in STEM

[caption id="attachment_21885" align="alignright" width="550"]Three students sitting at a desk and working on laptops Education and outreach initiatives are also important components of the work supported by the award. Burden stated that he feels a strong commitment to these efforts as a first-generation college student who benefited in high school from a UW summer institute for mathematics. The initiatives also connect well with his role as UW ECE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator. 2016 photo by Mark Stone, courtesy of the Center for Neurotechnology[/caption] Education and outreach initiatives are also important components of the work supported by the award. Burden stated that he feels a strong commitment to these efforts as a first-generation college student who benefited in high school from a UW summer institute for mathematics. The initiatives also connect well with his role as UW ECE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator. “There’s so much scientific advancement and technological innovation that we are missing out on because of systemic exclusion and marginalization of large groups of people,” Burden said. “I’m certain that I wouldn’t be here in this job if that door hadn’t been opened for me, and so, I’m eager to open as many of those doors as I can for other people.” Burden is already heavily involved in UW College of Engineering K–12 outreach programs such as Engineering Discovery Days and outreach tailored specifically for underrepresented students such as the STARS program. And at UW ECE, he has co-led efforts to expand diversity, equity and inclusion with colleagues such as Niveditha Kalavakonda. The support he receives from the award will allow him to take this work even further over the next five years. “I was very deliberate in putting together the education and outreach component supported by the award,” Burden said. “I chose initiatives that were evidence-based, that have proven successful in other contexts, and that build-up or expand on existing programs.” [caption id="attachment_21887" align="alignleft" width="550"]A man demonstrates a device in front of a group of K–12 students Engineering Discovery Days at the UW College of Engineering. The award will enable Burden and his research team to expand their ability to regularly exhibit and present at public events such as these. 2018 photo by Sam Burden[/caption] The award will enable Burden and his research team to expand their ability to regularly exhibit and present at public events involving large numbers of students, families and teachers, such as Engineering Discovery Days and UW Math Day. It also will provide resources for Burden to create a new site for an alternative spring break program run by Riverways, a K–12 outreach program that connects UW undergraduate students with educational and service opportunities. The organization is part of the Community Engagement & Leadership Education Center at the UW, and it has relationships with a number of middle schools and high schools in Latinx and tribal communities across the state. “One thing I like about the NSF award is that it’s not draining resources from Riverways,” Burden said. “It’s providing an external source of additional funding to help expand the program.” In the STARS program, Burden has already coordinated a faculty mentorship network, which matches students with UW faculty who are from departments the students have expressed an interest in. He is planning to use support from the award to help some of these students be placed in research labs within their first two years at the UW. This will give STARS students an immersive, hands-on educational experience right at the start of their academic journey. Burden has placed a strong focus on cooperating across campus to create, improve and build upon existing outreach programs. And when talking about the NSF CAREER award, the research it supports and the education and outreach initiatives it enables, he repeatedly emphasizes the importance of working together to achieve mutually agreed upon goals. “None of my work would be possible without the mentorship and leadership provided by my advisers and teachers, nor without the support and structure provided by UW ECE, nor without the creativity and energy provided by my students and collaborators,” Burden said. “I am simultaneously deeply humbled and proud to be a part of such a diverse, intellectual community.” To learn more about the research, education and outreach programs supported by this NSF CAREER award or to discuss ongoing work expanding diversity, equity and inclusion at UW ECE, contact Sam Burden. [post_title] => Sam Burden receives NSF CAREER award to advance human-machine collaboration and broaden participation of underrepresented students in STEM [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => sam-burden-nsf-career-award [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-04-28 16:23:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-04-28 23:23:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21878 [menu_order] => 5 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21757 [post_author] => 27 [post_date] => 2021-04-19 09:58:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-04-19 16:58:05 [post_content] => Story by Wayne Gillam | UW ECE News [caption id="attachment_21762" align="alignright" width="600"]Fatma Inanici applies a patch to the back of Jessie Owen's neck Jessie Owen (right), who has a spinal cord injury, spoke at a recent roundtable about her decision to participate in a research study led by UW ECE senior postdoctoral researcher Dr. Fatma Inanici in the lab of UW ECE associate professor Chet Moritz. This study was funded by the Center for Neurotechnology, which Moritz co-directs and of which Dr. Inanici is a member. Owen described what the experience was like and how neurotechnology has impacted her life. In this photo, Dr. Inanici is applying small patches that will deliver electrical currents on the surface of the skin, over the injured area in Owen’s neck. This electrical stimulation helps the brain to reestablish connections with nerves in the spinal cord. 2018 photo by Marcus Donner[/caption] At the age of 27, Jessie Owen was in a devastating car accident that left her with a severe spinal cord injury. She lost much of the function in her hands, arms and legs, and she was diagnosed with central spinal cord syndrome. Her brain’s ability to send and receive signals to and from the parts of her body below her neck was severely impaired. She had to take a leave of absence from her job as a teacher, and she has since been dependent on a wheelchair and caregivers for day-to-day living. In 2018–19 she participated in a groundbreaking research study led by UW ECE senior postdoctoral researcher Dr. Fatma Inanici in the lab of UW ECE associate professor Chet Moritz. This study was funded by the Center for Neurotechnology, which Moritz co-directs and of which Dr. Inanici is a member. In the study, the research team used a device provided by the Center’s industry affiliate Onward to apply noninvasive, electrical stimulation to the site of Owen’s spinal cord injury. This was aimed at improving her hand and arm function. Owen experienced significant functional gains as a result of participating in the study, which enabled her to live much more independently. Owen spoke at the Spring 2021 CNT End-user Roundtable, which is a space for CNT students, faculty and staff to learn from people with disabilities and potential end users of neurotechnology. The event was organized by CNT Associate Director of Diversity Scott Bellman and moderated by Moritz. Owen took questions from the audience about her decision to participate in the study, what the experience was like for her and how it has impacted her life. Below this video, which shows how Owen benefited from participating in the study, are some questions from the Roundtable audience and Owen’s responses, lightly edited for clarity. Welcome to the CNT End-user Roundtable, Jessie! We appreciate you taking the time today to be with us. Thank you! I’m happy to be here. So, let me tell you a little bit about how I got to be here. At the very end of December 2012, I was in a car accident going over Highway 2 here in Washington. A tree fell on our car, and I sustained a severe spinal cord injury. I broke my neck at the C3 / C4 level. I went to Harborview Medical Center, and I was at Harborview for three to four months. By the time I left, I still had not gained enough function back to drive a power wheelchair with my hand. I was still driving it with my chin. And then, I got into a skilled nursing facility because I had some broken bones, and I had some other things that needed to heal. For about two years after that time, I did exercise therapy the best I could. I was able to go from a chin drive to a hand drive on my wheelchair. And I did learn to stand, to get up from chairs and transfer [from one seat to another], but my hand function was still pretty low. I have central spinal cord syndrome, so my legs tend to work a little bit better than my arms, which was great in some ways but frustrating in others. So, I was living with a friend at the time as I continued exercise therapy. I stayed stagnant in my recovery for about two years. I learned to walk a little bit with crutches, but I was definitely using my power wheelchair all the time because it’s not like I could open a door, or grab things, or cook or any of those things. [caption id="attachment_21768" align="alignright" width="500"]Chet Moritz and Dr. Inanici watch study participant Jon Schlueter complete a grip-test Moritz (left) and Dr. Inanici (center) observe as Jon Schlueter (right), a participant who took part in the same study as Owen, measures grip strength by squeezing the device in his hand. Schlueter has sensors on his arms (black cases) to measure his arm muscle activity during the task. 2019 photo by Marcus Donner[/caption] What brought you to the study? I strongly believe that if we want to see change in the spinal cord community and in science, I need to be an active participant. And so over the years, I participated in some studies whenever they came up. When this one with Chet and Fatma came up, I met with them, and they said I might be a good candidate because I had some function in my hands, even though I didn’t have great function. What did you expect from the study? Honestly, I didn’t expect a lot out of it. We just don’t know enough scientifically about how to treat spinal cord injuries, so I thought that it was just going to be a “feel good” experience for me because I was doing my part to help advance science. It was about two years ago when I participated in this study, and I experienced way more results than I anticipated. In that time, I was able to go from living with a friend to buying my own house, to living independently, to receiving at least 50% less caregiving. My hand function is still not 100%, it’s not, but it has improved enough to allow me to do a lot of different things, and it has made a significant impact in my life, and that is why I’m here. [caption id="attachment_21771" align="alignleft" width="500"]A woman works on fine motor skills using children's blocks while an undergraduate researcher oversees Owen practices her fine motor skills by using children’s blocks while UW undergraduate researcher Megan Knoernschild reviews data on the electrical stimulation device provided by Center for Neurotechnology industry affiliate Onward. 2018 photo by Marcus Donner[/caption] Could you give us some examples of some things that you couldn’t do before the study but that you can do now? Yeah, you know, there are so many of them. One is that I can cook now. I still don’t take anything out of the oven (that’s pretty scary), but I can do just about anything on the stovetop. I feel much more comfortable using a knife to cut something because even though my right hand is still pretty ridiculous, it’s open enough that I can stabilize an onion, while I carefully cut on the other side. I can tie my shoes. I can walk my dog easier because I can clip the leash on him. I can take pictures on my phone. I can actually open my hand and take pictures on my phone without it being a huge struggle. I started a journal, and now I write in it every day, about three to five sentences. That’s something that I could maybe do before the study, but it was so tedious. It still takes me longer than the average person, but it’s not so painful that it’s not enjoyable. I take my time, and I like writing. Another big one is that I’m a teacher, and before the study, I really struggled with figuring out how to teach without being able to write very well or use the technology because my fingers weren’t working. Now, I can point to things better, I can pick stuff up and write more quickly. I feel more confident as a teacher because I have just that little bit more hand function that allows me to do more. Do you still receive spinal stimulation? If not, were you able to keep the functional gains you made in the study? I haven’t received any additional stimulation in the two years since the study. I would say that about 90% of my functional gains remain. I have a lot more hand function in my left hand. I can still keep my right hand open, and I can carefully grasp something with it. The progress I’ve made has sustained. I definitely haven’t gone down significantly, maybe a tiny bit right after the study ended, but I still have enough function for me to live as independently as possible. I’m still receiving 50% less care than I was before. I’ve honestly just been a lot happier. You’re happier when you have independence. When you start out with very little function, even regaining 30% more function at a very low level means a huge deal, so it’s been really meaningful for me to be able to keep the gains that I’ve made. [caption id="attachment_21773" align="alignright" width="500"]Three woman sitting around a table talking Owen, Dr. Inanici and Knoernschild discuss research data and electrical stimulation levels for the study. 2018 photo by Marcus Donner[/caption] What advice would you give to those considering enrolling in study similar to this one? (Read this UW News article for a more complete description of the study.) Honestly, I would say to do it. There’s no downside to this. It seems that the side effects are so minimal. I had super success with it, but even if you don’t, you’re not going to get worse. This is a huge opportunity, and it’s simple, it’s easy, and it doesn’t take a lot of time to set up. Do you have any closing thoughts? I’m really honored to be in a room with such hardworking and smart and dedicated individuals who are willing to spend time in their careers to make people’s lives better, and you do. You made a big impact on my life and how I get to live. I’m really grateful for the work that you do, and I’m happy to help. I really hope that this technology expands and becomes available to everyone and that we continue to take this as a stepping-stone and go even further with it. Learn more about Owen’s personal experience in the research study in this article. More information about the study is available at UW News, on the Restorative Technologies website and in this associated research paper. [post_title] => The impact of neurotechnology [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-impact-of-neurotechnology [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-04-19 09:58:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-04-19 16:58:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=21757 [menu_order] => 6 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 21696 [post_author] => 25 [post_date] => 2021-04-26 10:38:43 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-04-26 17:38:43 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_21698" align="alignright" width="235"] UW ECE Professor Bruce Darling, who took over as lead faculty adviser for the UW Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) team in 2019.[/caption] For almost a century, automotive engineering has fallen squarely within the purview of the mechanical engineering field. However, today’s automotive industry has evolved with the increasing need for top talent from a wide range of engineering disciplines including electrical, computer science and software engineering to develop advanced propulsion systems, electrification, autonomous technologies, vehicle connectivity and more. This is just one of the reasons why it made perfect sense for University of Washington Electrical & Computer Engineering (UW ECE) Professor Bruce Darling to take over as lead faculty adviser for the UW Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) team in 2019. Having been involved with previous competitions, Darling jumped at the chance to lead the team competing in The EcoCAR Mobility Challenge. “Mobility, and transportation engineering in general, is one of the most pressing needs of our time. It plays a large role in the impact of our species on the planet, and it is a fundamental aspect of our lives that enables social connection, essential services, recreation and commerce,” said Darling. “Vehicle electrification is one of those, along with the increased automation and connectivity that is essential for creating new systems for getting people where they want to go. The key factor here are systems and the need to tie it all together.” It’s no secret that participating in EcoCAR is a demanding undertaking for students, teams and faculty. It takes a multi-disciplinary team of talent with a wide array of engineering expertise to even compete. Students are tasked with completely re-engineering a vehicle to exacting standards in terms of handling, acceleration and fuel economy. It must be fully street legal and compliant with all government safety requirements and be able to withstand the many driving conditions a normal consumer would encounter.
"It is such a pleasure to be immersed in a group of students who are destined to have a real impact on the world.” -Bruce Darling
“Our car has more computing power under the hood than most workstations, and that software must be extremely reliable and run without any interruptions since it controls many of the advanced driver-assist functions like advanced cruise control, lane-keeping and early collision warnings,” he said. “Those systems are not like video games or toys or cell phone apps; they must work infallibly with 100 percent uptime because they are part of the life-safety envelope the vehicle provides and for which the driver and passengers count on.” In fact, many past UW grads who participated in EcoCAR have gone on to work at top software and IT companies. According to Darling, “EcoCAR alumni are some of the most sought-after graduates because they can come up to speed on new projects of this scale within only a few months, whereas new graduates without this experience might typically require several years. It makes a huge difference in one’s initial employment prospects, and once on the job, that experience accelerates one’s career by several years.” [caption id="attachment_21699" align="aligncenter" width="1163"] Darling with the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge team[/caption] Darling’s varied background, from working with start-ups to forensic engineering for NASA in the wake of the Columbia disaster, provides his students the benefit of working with someone who is keenly aware of how and why complicated systems fail and how to engineer systems able to withstand failures when they do happen. He also serves on the competitions Faculty Advisory Board, a position selected by his peers, to help organizers develop the appropriate challenges for students. “These days I spend about 10 percent of my time worrying about how everything should work right and about 90 percent of the time worrying about what happens when things go wrong and how to design systems to gracefully handle those failures,” said Darling. So, with two and a half years into this four-year competition, what impresses him most about his team? “Without a doubt, it has been working with a team of student volunteers who put enormous time and dedication into the project. These are not the type who put in only the minimum effort to get by, they are the ones who are making every effort to maximize their education and achieve the most possible,” said Darling. “That’s an attitude which cultivates success, and it is such a pleasure to be immersed in a group of students who are destined to have a real impact on the world.” To learn more about Professor Darling and EcoCAR, visit: EcoCAR Mobility Challenge

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UW ECE Virtual Graduation Celebration, Wednesday, June 9

Thank you to everyone who was able to join us for our UW ECE Graduation Celebration via Remo, Zoom and YouTube Live! In case you missed the event, you can view the video below or visit our Graduation page to watch speeches from UW ECE Professor and Chair Eric Klavins, UW ECE Graduation Guest Speaker Henrique (Rico) Malvar, and warm wishes from our UW ECE faculty and staff! To our graduating students, we wish you the best of luck in all of your future endeavors! View and download the Graduation event program! [post_title] => Congratulations, Class of 2021! [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => congrats-class-of-2021 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-06-11 10:13:42 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-06-11 17:13:42 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.ece.uw.edu/?post_type=spotlight&p=22207 [menu_order] => 1 [post_type] => spotlight [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 758 [max_num_pages] => 127 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => 1 [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => c64914061c8ecf9b16abe746203f6ad7 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 1 [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) ) )
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