Center for Injury Research and Prevention

The Chance to Answer My Own Research Question

April 16, 2020
Rahul Akkem BMESRahul Akkem presenting his analysis of EMG data at the Biomedical Engineering Society Meeting in Philadelphia 

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!