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Catch-Up With Victoria and Nathan: Chapter VII

Posted by Nathan Hall on Saturday, December 8, 2012

Loyal lovers of literature, delightful ‘Dore devotees, faithful followers of fuh-this blog, you have done well. Our whirlwind time-travel tour of this semester is progressing nicely, and we’re drawing nearer to the present with each update. For my past editions of the Catch-Up Chronicles, as well as those written by my dear friend Victoria, get clicking.

For the past several semesters, I’ve pursued (to no avail!) a research position with a specific professor in the Mechanical Engineering department. During the registration period for next semester, however, I requested, interviewed for and accepted a research position at Vanderbilt Engineering’s STORM Lab! I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, and I’ll tell you how I became entangled in this academic affair.

Relevant to the article? No, not really. But VERY RELEVANT TODAY.

As each semester reaches registration time, undergraduates are required to meet with their academic adviser to discuss scheduling for the next semester, make sure credits and required classes will be fulfilled, and catch up on life. At my adviser meeting, Prof. Sarkar tipped me off to a certain faculty member in the ME department who researches in Mechatronics, my area of interest (and expertise, I rocked that class, everyone). I decided to go for broke and contacted Dr. Pietro Valdastri, who agreed to meet with me (the morning that we departed for Field Training Exercise, that was bunches of fun) to discuss my involvement in his lab. After a brief interview and some discussion of the particular research he would be interested in adding an undergrad for, we took a jaunt upstairs to the lab itself, where I spent about an hour being bombarded by information about magnetic fields and Hall sensors and 6-degree pose while trying to look smart and nod a lot. Near the meeting’s end, he handed me a few research papers to read through and told me which desk would be mine.

My. Desk. TOO COOL.

What have I done to earn this spot on the website? Absolutely nothing.

To briefly sum up the research I’ll be working on starting next semester (and some over Christmas break): The lab is developing a means of wireless colonoscopy involving a small capsule with magnetically actuated surgical tools. The position (in x-, y-, and z- planes) and orientation (around each axis) of the capsule is known as the pose, and will be controlled with a robotic arm outside the patient’s body supporting a specific magnet, the field of which will interact with a small magnet inside the capsule. Needless to say, the control of a small magnet via a larger magnet on the end of a large robotic arm needs to precise for a surgical application, and that’s where my part comes in – The capsule is equipped with a 3-axis accelerometer (to provide tilt information) and 6 Hall Effect sensors (which essentially read the strength of a magnetic field at that point), the data from which is siphoned through an algorithm to provide a real-time pose representation of the surgical capsule! I’ll be working with a doctoral candidate (also from Italy) on refining the algorithm, testing the capsule and essentially bettering the ability of the system to control with precision.

So that was a lot to digest. Stay tuned for more Catch-Up Chronicles, as well as (I’m sure) numerous Inside ‘Dores articles on the plight of finals ahead!

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