For the past 11 years, I have sought a future in which losing a part of your body due to illness or trauma does not mean losing that part of your life. As a recent graduate in 2014, I traveled to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to meet with amputees and their doctors to learn what problems most needed solving. The experience drove many projects, such as creating a mechanical hand of my own design and a replica of the multi-material data-drive prosthetic sockets developed in the MIT Biomechatronics Lab. I accomplished the later by using CT scans of an amputated limb to model an additively manufactured prosthetic socket with optimized material properties for comfort. It remains one of my most technically involved projects.
While bionic prostheses continue to provide motion, power, and speed for amputees, they still fall short of the natural limbs they seek to replace. My objective is to develop mechanical and data integration systems between hardware and the human body to create reliable, highly functional, and comfortable bionic systems. I see this technical challenge as having six pillars:
- Osseointegration for structural connection to the bone
- Actuation that matches the performance of skeletal muscle
- Innervation of the nervous system for control and sensory feedback
- Biocompatibility for longevity, safety, and efficacy
- Surgical methods for device integration and preservation of natural strategies
- Legislation for regulatory approval and accessibility to the technology
I am an inventor, entrepreneur, and engineer with industry experience. I have contributed to five startups and an industrial aerospace research group in the context of commercializing novel technologies. I am an inventor of six granted patents, the most prominent of which is a surgical device that enables an ENT procedure to go from two-handed to one. I have focused on working in startups to learn how they operate, as my ultimate goal has always been to start a company that successfully industrializes bionic prostheses. I have joined three startups as an early hire and started two myself.
I have taken two classes through the MIT Advanced Studies Program since the fall of 2020; these classes have been instrumental in learning the specifications of human skeletal muscle from the perspective of engineering actuators and control theories of how the human brain controls the neuromuscular system. I do not think motors, dielectric elastomers, piezoelectric actuators, hydraulics, or pneumatic actuators can meet the performance criteria for both speed and power achieved by organic skeletal muscle. I believe a new paradigm of engineering actuators is needed, ideally one that matches skeletal muscle at the motor unit/motor neuron microscopic level. So too, a means of controlling these actuators will be required. If a prosthetic limb is built with all the functionality of a natural limb but the patient has no way of controlling it with natural strategies, that engineered ability is lost. I believe this can be achieved by tapping into the patient’s peripheral nervous system at the site of amputation. Such a device would serve as a platform for future prosthesis design work and is the focus of my endeavors.
In actualization of this vision of life-like bionics, I am currently applying for PhD programs in biomedical engineering and neuroengineering beginning in the fall of 2023. I am currently applying for research assistant positions in neuroengineering labs.