Thursday, December 6, 2007

Women Of Strength: Biomedical Engineers

My work at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital involves educating patients about adaptive devices and modifications of existing products to make them more useful for people with limited functional mobility.

I am currently involved in a project in conjunction with Tufts University Biomedical Engineering students to modify existing grooming products for women who have limited dexterity. This prototype device may make it possible for women without fine motor control to apply makeup on their own.

Biomedical Engineering can trace its history back a hundred years, when the first x-ray machines and electrocardiographs dramatically illustrated how technology could be applied to improve health. Today, the field of biomedical engineering is a major science, propelled by the momentum of post-World War II technology and the latest molecular, genetic, and computational developments. It now encompasses many different specialties, including research into improving the lives of people with disabilities through prosthetics and medical devices.

At Tufts University, women are leaders in the Biomedical field. Through a variety of community projects and outreach activities, Nerd Girls, a group of women engineering students at Tufts, share a bond: They work together on exciting, hands-on engineering projects.

Currently, members of Nerd Girls are developing a system that will enable people with physical disabilities to interact more effectively with "helper monkeys" trained to aid them with their daily tasks. The engineers are designing a mechanism that will allow quadriplegics to feed the monkeys and let them in and out of their cages using voice-activated software. With this voice-activated software, disabled people will be better able to care for and control their helper monkeys, allowing quadriplegics to live more independently.

"There are people lined up for these [cage] doors, so the pressure is on," said Valery Thompson, a senior electrical and biomedical engineering student. "But so far this has been my favorite project because it's improving some one's life."

Top: I'm pictured with Tufts student Abeni Wickham; above are some of the Nerd Girls.