Sensor Lab Seed Grants Advance Innovative Research

Eight teams received a total of nearly $400,000 in seed grant funding from the University of Arizona’s Health Sciences Sensor Lab for sensor-based projects that foster innovative research and demonstrate potential for the development of new technologies or applications.

The Sensor Lab is a strategic initiative by UArizona Health Sciences that provides access to sensor technology and expertise to fuel creativity and innovation. The Sensor Lab offers state-of-the-art sensor systems and development platforms as well as reconfigurable test rooms and expertise in data acquisition and analysis.

“By awarding the seed grants, we have established collaborative relationships with highly qualified research teams, including faculty and students,” he said Gustavo de Oliveira Almeida, Ph.D, Coordinator for the Sensor Lab. “This will be an ongoing effort by many of these researchers, and we hope they can generate useful preliminary data that will lead to more significant external funding in the future.”

The following researchers and projects are supported with the Seed Grants:

  • Zhao Chen, PhD, MPH, Chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UArizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and a member of the BIO5 Institute, has developed tai chi and qigong interventions using in-person and virtual modalities. The research team is actively investigating the effectiveness of a virtual intervention to improve the physical and mental health of older workers.
  • Janine E Hinton, PhD, RN, Associate Clinical Professor at the UArizona College of Nursing, has proposed a prototype intelligent simulation environment to train healthcare professionals to reduce medical errors and develop domain-specific complex adaptive competencies. The prototype would integrate Sensor Lab resources such as eye tracking, motion tracking, heart rate variability, and electrodermal activity with mixed reality and artificial intelligence applications.
  • William DS Killgore, PhD, Director of the Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab at UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson’s Department of Psychiatry and a member of the BIO5 Institute, is attempting to better measure cognitive and behavioral deficits associated with mild traumatic brain injury. His project will develop and program a virtual reality headset and sensor system with a simple game-like scenario to assess cognitive performance using artificial intelligence, machine learning and computational neuroscientific algorithms.
  • Adarsh ​​Pyarelal, PhDResearch scientist at the UArizona College of Social and Behavioral Sciences School of Information, uses artificial intelligence for speech and natural language processing to build an open-source dashboard that can detect and repair poor team communication.
  • Philip Gutruf, PhDAssistant Professor at the UArizona College of Engineering and a member of the BIO5 Institute, is testing the hypothesis that the integration of tactile sensation with other sensor modalities in robotic surgery will greatly improve surgeon skill acquisition, enhance the intraoperative experience, and provide an additional layer of quality assurance and patient safety.
  • Yuanyuan “Kay” He, PhD, Assistant Professor at the UArizona College of Fine Arts, composed StellarScape, an immersive multimedia show that includes live musicians, electronic music and dancers collaborating with interactive cinematography, fusing kinesthetic and acoustic perception with real-time cosmic simulation. In partnership with the Sensor Lab, Stellarscape seeks to bring performance to a wide audience with advanced interactive sensor technologies.
  • Kristen Renner, PhD, Assistant Professor at the College of Medicine – Tucson’s Department of Orthopedic Surgery, seeks to understand the relationship between pre- and postoperative patient characteristics to improve total knee arthroplasty outcomes. Her team will investigate whether wearable devices could remove research limitations by reducing participants’ visits to a central research site and reducing the cost, labor and skills required to collect data.
  • Kate E Hughes, DOAssistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, College of Medicine – Tucson, is evaluating whether a mixed reality simulation system can be developed to provide anatomically accurate representations of various airway configurations for laryngoscopy, while providing immersive scenarios that induce cognitive stress in learners performing tasks.

Nearly $350,000 was awarded to eight principal investigators, with an additional $27,000 for graduate and undergraduate research projects. dr Gutruf and Pyarelal received additional awards that will support research being conducted by students in their labs.

“The Sensor Lab will open new frontiers of discovery not just at the University of Arizona Health Sciences but across the university, and will allow researchers to leverage major advances in sensor technology,” he said Jennifer Barton, PhD, Director of the Sensor Lab and the BIO5 Institute. “Our goal with the grants was to identify and connect with researchers who could quickly use the funds to support their projects. The quality and number of proposals received was exciting for us and we look forward to offering another round of funding in the future.”