A note from Valentina Graci, PhD: Today, we are pleased to welcome a guest blog post from Rahul Akkem, a junior at Drexel University majoring in Biomedical Engineering and a co-op student on CIRP’s Biomedical Engineering team.
Initially, I believed that a degree in Biomedical Engineering meant I would be working with cells and scaffolds or making MRIs and other diagnostic devices better. While I haven’t had the opportunity to work with any devices yet, I previously worked in a stem cell lab and realized it wasn’t my passion. Through my co-op experience at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), I was excited to find an area of STEM that was more interesting to me – crash testing!
I joined CIRP at the beginning of my sophomore year in November of 2016 and have worked with Dr. Valentina Graci and many others on a Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies (CChIPS) project involving manual takeover scenarios in sled-simulated self-driving scenarios. We measured how participants react to a potentially catastrophic failure of autonomous technology and then compared reaction times in order to develop ways to improve them. In my role, I analyzed EMG signals from muscle activation in the programming language of MATLAB to determine muscle activation. I also contributed significantly to recruiting participants, running sled tests, and presenting the data.
Choosing Research for His Career
I didn’t expect to be included in the published research and to have such an important role within the research team as a college sophomore. I also didn’t expect to present my own analysis of EMG data at the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) Meeting in Philadelphia, where I was also given the opportunity to attend research presentations and learn more about other fields and topics.
Overall, working at CIRP has given me a full understanding of how research is conducted from recruitment, to data collection, to analysis, to data presentation.
Currently, I am participating in my one and only co-op at CIRP because I really enjoy the work and the projects, and I want to continue my co-op here during my junior year. As a major part of this experience, I am conducting my own subset research question as part of the “Gender Differences in the Reaction Time Due to an Emergency Swerving Maneuver of a Simulated Autonomous Vehicle.” I hope to present about my new research in the near future!
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