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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Engineering graduate’s dream to change lives

Engineering graduate Sam Parker is about to fulfil his dreams.

The 22-year-old has been accepted to Brown University – a prestigious Ivy League research university in the United States.

The former University of Newcastle (UoN) student is set to study a PhD in Biomedical Engineering, where he will focus on researching brain computer interfaces. 

“It’s really exciting, it’s something I’ve been working towards since I was in high school,” he said.

“It’s a dream come true.”

He added the application process was not easy, it involved an online application form, a series of essays and an “incredibly difficult” exam.

After completing these tasks Sam then flew to America in February for an interview prior to being accepted, which he described as being one of the most exciting moments of his life.

His PhD research on brain computer interfaces is set to involve working on or with devices that measure the electrochemical signals of a patient’s brain when completing a task to use these signals to control a computer or prosthetic.

Sam hopes his work will help change the lives of people living with amputation or paralysis by restoring their lost function.

“Hopefully it will give a lot of people their independence back,” he said.

While the PhD is set to be challenging, Sam is no stranger to hard work.

Throughout his degree at UoN he worked as a research and development engineer, and as an intern at the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). 

His research at Brown University will build on his final year project, where he was awarded Best Project for developing a brain-controlled robotic arm. 

Sam built software and hardware to record brain activity encoded as scalp voltages (EEGs), sending the data wirelessly to a laptop, where an algorithm to decoded the signal. 

The EEG brain signal was then wirelessly sent to a 3D printed prosthetic hand, where the decoder was used to interpret the signal in real-time to execute a ‘hand open’ or ‘hand close’ movement.

After completing his PhD Sam hopes to start his own company where he can use computer interfaces to transform the lives of others.

The 2020 John Monash scholar is set to relocate to Rhode Island to commence his five year PhD degree next month.

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