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REIGN lab student earns SURF award

By: 

Stephen Greenwell

A research intern in the Rehabilitation Engineering for Improving Neuromotor Control Laboratory – REIGN – has received $4,000 from the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program, to support her work and to attend the 2020 SURF virtual lecture series.

Katherine Pham, a third-year biomedical engineering student, is studying under Dr. Jinsook Roh, an assistant professor in the department and the director of REIGN. Pham said she intends to use the fellowship to continue the work of the lab, and also to further develop her own skills and abilities.

“Throughout the 10-week program, I will be exploring the characteristics of intermuscular coordination in healthy controls, versus stroke survivors, when performing isometric and dynamic reaching tasks utilizing electromyographic data,” she said. “Through this work, I hope to employ the knowledge about bioelectrical signaling, human physiology, and MatLab coding that I learned in class to investigate the muscle activation patterns related to motor impairments caused by stroke.”

Roh stressed that the work Pham is doing would tie into the existing research and goals of the REIGN lab.

“The research topic is tightly related to my on-going research on the modifiability of abnormal motor coordination after stroke, funded by American Heart Association and supported through the international collaboration in the department of mechanical engineering at KAIST in South Korea,” she said. “The significance and innovation of the project Katherine proposes to perform is already acknowledged. She will also participate in further data collection from stroke participants. I expect that she can be one of the major authors for at least one publication out of the project.”

The SURF program is open to sophomores, juniors and seniors that will be not be graduating in the year of the fellowship. A 3.0 GPA is required for full-time students, and only University of Houston main campus students are eligible.

As part of the program, Pham will attend the virtual lecture series. She will also present at one of two Undergraduate Research Day events, currently planned for September 29, 2020 and April 1, 2021.

“I believe that this opportunity is an important stepping stone for me as I decide to continue my graduate studies or work in the industry as a biomedical engineer,” she said. “I am looking forward to learning more about biomedical research, and I am excited to start on my project soon.”

Roh said she happily supported Pham's application to the SURF program.

“She has been an outstanding undergraduate research intern in my lab,” Roh said. “I think that Katherine is within the top percentage of undergraduate students that I have observed at my previous institutes – MIT, Northwestern University, Temple University and the University of Houston. I hope that this talented and motivated student will be well supported in her pursuit in research.”

Pham said that since she was in high school, she's always had a “great interest” in the latest therapeutic innovations in medical research, and enjoyed reading about them.

“As I began to learn more about the many different fields in medical research from my BME classes, I grew more interested in the neurotechnology and rehabilitation engineering discipline, because I was curious about the complex and not yet fully understood neurocircuitry in the human body,” she said. “I also have a fascination with the innovative technologies in this field such as robotic prosthetics and other medical devices that modulate the brain. My ultimate goal is to use the knowledge in this field of research to further understand the underlying cause of neurological diseases, like stroke, and to create novel therapeutic solutions to cure those diseases.”

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