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UT Tyler workshop integrates engineering and medicine

By Cory McCoy
Jan. 11, 2017 at 9 a.m.


Engineering students at The University of Texas at Tyler are getting a firsthand look at how they can make a difference in the medical world through the Smart and Connected Health National Science Foundation Workshop, which kicked off Wednesday.

Kristin Plucinski, president of the campus' Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers chapter, helped organize the three-day event.

Speakers educated dozens of students about their potential role in a world where everyday technology has changed the face of the medical world.

"The goal is to bring things to their attention that are a little above what we do in the classroom to challenge us and make us aware of what we can reach for," Plucinski said. "We're dealing so much with the basics and learning the foundation that we don't get time to look into the other things we can do."

Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering Dr. Premananda Indic shared the story of how he became involved in designing a way to utilize wearables, such as Fitbits and Apple Watches, to predict the development of suicidal thoughts.

Indic said the idea occurred to him while looking into ways to monitor seizures and sleep apnea. His question was "are there functions that can be used to measure behavioral events and see if they precede suicidal ideations."

The researchers found that through a mix of data such as heart rate, breathing and other measures, researchers could see a marked difference between the activity of a healthy individual and a depressed subject.

Indic challenged the student to take these questions with them into the workplace.

"We're helping them to think out of the box with electrical engineering principles," he said. "Nowadays, there's a big push about wearables for health and fitness, but can we use these for medical purposes?"

Students also were given hands-on demonstrations of the technology utilized by the college's nursing programs to simulate the actions of a real patient.

The free workshop continues through Friday in the University Center Ballroom.

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