A Summer's Worth of Research: Spending 8 Weeks as Jump ARCHES Interns

9/12/2022 8:39:43 AM Lauren Laws, HCESC

How much can you do in eight weeks? For the Jump ARCHES Summer Interns, it was filled with hands-on work in the next evolution of healthcare and engineering.

Written by Lauren Laws, HCESC

In a large room just past several offices at the Health Care Engineering Systems Center in Urbana, eleven posters were proudly displayed for guests to see. All were covered meticulously with methods and findings, with some including interactive displays. A culmination of eight weeks performing research, coding, analyzing, and more by the HCESC Jump ARCHES summer interns. 

A group of undergraduate interns from various majors, ranging from computer science to statistics and bioengineering, were paired up with eleven Jump ARCHES projects to assist professors, doctors, and researchers with their work. All projects covered the medical field in some way, whether it be through new, interactive methods of training future doctors to assisting patients in their own homes. The interns' work was featured on Friday, July 29 with a poster session. Researchers said the work the students did was invaluable.

"I've been so impressed by just the quality of work and how much we were able to get accomplished in eight weeks," says Dr. Nicole Rau, OSF Neonatologist and a Jump ARCHES grant recipient. "Sonam did a great job, and I could not believe how far we've come since she started. I've been really impressed by the whole program." 

The internship gives undergraduate students a chance to to work on innovation that comes from the intersection of healthcare and engineering. This year was slightly different compared to internships of years past. For the first time, Jump ARCHES grantees were offered the opportunity to have a fully funded summer intern work on their projects.

HCESC Simulation Engineer Lydia Lee says this sort of experience is unique not only for interns, but also researchers.  

"It allows clinicians access to engineering students and it allows the students and the PIs here access to clinicians, which is really important in developing these healthcare innovations," says Lee. “Jump ARCHES in general allows for collaboration that is hard to find if this organization didn't exist. If you're working in industry or another university that doesn't have access to clinicians, that's huge for the development of your project. But Jump ARCHES really allows for U of I and OSF to really build that relationship. ”

We have more below on what each intern worked on and their thoughts on the internship.

Sonam Jain (Statistics & Computer Science)

Statistics & Computer Science student Sonam Jain stands in front of her research poster.
Sonam Jain

Jain is minoring in game design, but her internship shows that virtual reality isn't just for gamers. The rising sophomore worked with HCESC Simulation Engineer Harris Nisar and Dr. Nicole Rau of OSF on developing virtual reality training for the umbilical venous catheterization (UVC) procedure. 

"One of my big things I created was a user interface, and it shows users what steps they have left to do, what they've completed, which controller buttons to use. It helps the user through their process of learning," said Jain, who created everything using Unity, a program she hadn't touched before the internship. However, learning a new program wasn't the only lesson she took away from the experience. 

"When I think about virtual reality, I more think of games or watching a concert, stuff that's more recreational. I wasn't thinking of it in the healthcare field. But as I worked with the doctors more and worked with my PI more and other people, I realized that there is a lot of use for this." 

She said she feels as if she has enough knowledge to put together a game now if she wished, but now realizes another path is open to her.

"This internship changed my view on job prospects. I was pretty sure I'd be going into the industry before this, like working in a big company. I still feel like that is a possible path for me, but I definitely am more interested in the research side of things."

Arnav Shah (Computer Science)

Arnav Shah stands in front of his research poster.
Arnav Shah

Shah said earlier in the summer that programming gives you the power to help any industry and you can create anything you can imagine using your coding skills. That was put to the test when he assisted HCESC Jump Simulation Engineer Harris Nisar and Dr. Abraham Kocheril of OSF in developing a virtual reality simulation for ECG  training. It's meant to help teach medical personnel where to properly place electrodes on a patient. Shah said they tried to make it as close to reality as possible. 

"The electrodes are supposed to be placed at particular locations on the body.  So what we did was, we have these electrodes, and beneath these electrodes, there are actually stickers which are not visible to the user. But those stickers, make sure that the stickers are facing the body so that they actually stick because in real life, the electrodes have a sticky part at the bottom."

Shah said this experience showed him it's possible to create a simulation for anything, and virtual reality can be used to educate people in various tasks. But as for this simulation, he said he doesn't think he's quite done yet.

"I definitely wish I could have worked more on this. So if possible, I would like to continue working on this. Because I feel like giving the doctor we've been working with a complete project is something that would make me satisfied about what I've done throughout the internship."

Suyash Nagumalli (Computer Science)

Suyash Nagumalli stands in front of his research poster.
Suyash Nagumalli

Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) helps support heart functionality in critically ill patients by circulating the blood and oxygenating it. Training to do that, though, isn't easy. That's where Nagumalli was tasked to help HCESC Simulation Engineer Harris Nisar and Dr. Girish Deshpande of OSF with working on an accessible simulation. 

"The thing about ECMO training right now is it requires an elaborate setup, a simulation space and trained faculty for this procedure," said Nagumalli. "So the solution we have is a VR headset that people could put on, and then they will be instantly taken to a whole environment with easily accessible content, self paced learning, and unlimited repetition of content."

While writing code is familiar to Nagumalli, working on anything regarding biology and the medical field wasn't. He said this showed him a different side of the industry and a possible future on developing training as a career. 

"This whole process feels very rewarding for you as a developer. You're seeing that your contributions are actively displayed in a training module that people are actually using. I'm super stoked to have healthcare professionals use the training module that we've made for them. It was a super wholesome experience."

Zhuofan Jia (Computer Science)

Zhoufan Jia stands in front of her research poster.
Zhuofan Jia

It's imperative for patients to trust their providers, and not just in the doctor's office, but also with communications. Jia worked with CS Assistant Professor Gang Wang on the Jump ARCHES project High Trust Patient Outreach. With her skills as a rising senior in Computer Science, she worked on a method to establish a channel of secure communication between patients and hospital. 

"The way we are doing this is by using a channel as a short message service system and also a calling system to help patients to establish and see whether it is authentic from the hospital," said Jia. 

She admitted she's proud of herself for developing the system, including writing all of the codes and bringing it from design to reality. The experienced left a mark on her, and she plans to continue working with Wang on the Jump ARCHES project. 

"There are several next steps, maybe including the user study, and how I can adapt my system into future use and deployed into a real system for hospitals."

Meg Li (Statistics & Computer Science) and Claudia Reyes (Bioengineering)

Meg Li (left) and Claudia Reyes stand in front of their research poster.
Meg Li (left) and Claudia Reyes

There is an app for most things nowadays. The one these two interns worked on could help save a life.

"The idea of the app came from the idea of there are a lot of like families with small children, infants, who might have, undiagnosed conditions or traumatic injuries that might cause them to need CPR really early on. So we wanted to develop an app for that, that's just for your smartphone," said Li.

Li and Reyes teamed up together to assist HCESC Research Scientist Inki Kim and Dr. Paul Jeziorczak of OSF on the project Hands Down: Empowering Children and Families through CPR Education. Both took a CPR class to prepare themselves for developing the app. They created it to be used without a secondary device, unlike other apps on the App Store.

"To make the app more interactive, we focused on the visuals too. With the code, if you press down, the chest will go down," said Reyes. "In the future, we hope to provide more accurate feedback on the amount of pressure and the area."

Pai Zheng (Statistics & Computer Science) and Zehao Li (Computer Science)

Pai Zheng (left) and Zehao Li stand in front of their research poster.
Pai Zheng (left) and Zehao Li

It's not always feasible for patients to travel to see their therapists. Telehealth can help, but this Jump ARCHES research is going one step further.

Zheng and Li worked witth ISE Professor Dusan Stipanovic and OSF Occupational Therapist Ann Horowitz on Community-based Tele-Rehabilitation Health Network for Robotic Stroke Therapy. The idea is for therapists to go through movements using shoulders, arms, and wrists utilizing a robotic device while patients mimic them via their own device with guided force. 

Zheng focused on obtaining the necessary data and analyzed it to build models for their work while Li worked on incorporating everything into an app that both patients and therapists would use.

"Research is something quite new or different from my other experiences," said Zheng. "For research, we are given a direction, but there are many things we need to figure out [on our own such as] how are we going to do it and what methods need to be implemented in this situation."

For the app, Li went through several methods in perfecting it.

"I've been actually trying multiple programming languages for the app. Firstly, I tried C++ and then I try like the Java, but it doesn't work well for this project," he said. "I feel like using C# and Unity are a better choice for this project."

Both interns agree that being willing to try something new is a lesson they'll remember for years.

"Just keep researching and keep touching new things," said Li. "Don't be afraid."

Zijun Yu (Statistics & Computer Science)

Zijun Yu stands in front of his research poster.
Zijun Yu

Internships often give students the chance to interact with topics they've never explored before. That's exactly what happened for Yu.

"My major is statistics and  computer science, so I never got a chance to learn about psychology, and the psychology between parents and children," said Yu. He assisted HDFS Professor Nancy McElwain on her project regarding early detection of developmental disorders. His skills went towards defining data types collected from a device children wore that recorded audio data and biological information, as well as developing visualization tools for parents. 

The internship left him appreciative of the experience and the researchers involved. However it also boosted his confidence in handling unknown subjects.

"For example, if we're going to come back to do more research, write our own paper, or go into industry jobs, we'll definitely face a lot of challenges that we actually have no solutions. So, at that time, how should we deal with this? I think this internship gave me a lot of ideas and experiences that will help in that situation."

Read the original story from the Health Care Engineering Systems Center.

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This story was published September 12, 2022.