Mentor: Dr. Sara Burke
College of Medicine
"I sought an opportunity to apply what I was learning in engineering school and seized the chance to join a young, new lab. Being an engineering student, I am excited about performing research within the College of Medicine's Department of Neuroscience as a means of broadening my background."
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Society of Automotive Engineers' Research and Design Team
American Society of Mechanical Engineers
Machine Intelligence Laboratory
- Share the Advantage
- Vacation Bible School
- Praise and Worship Team (Acoustic Guitar)
Hobbies and Interests
Research on Microelectrode Recording Arrays
During aging there are deficits in neural activity that are linked to memory impairments. The laboratory of Dr. Sara Burke in the College of Medicine Department of Neuroscience is dedicated to determining the age-associated changes in the brain that account for cognitive impairments over the lifespan using high-channel count neurophysiological recordings from behaving rats. As a Mechanical Engineering student conducting research with Dr. Burke, I am acting as the design engineer for the microelectrode recording arrays used by her team. Specifically, Dr. Burke’s lab group consists of 11 members, whom specialize in studying and testing the cognitive abilities of young and rats that serve as models for normal human aging. My role on this team is to build and design high-channel count microelectrode arrays. Microelectrode arrays are devices that contain moveable shanks for lowering and raising electrodes into the brain. These electrodes are used to monitor the electrical activity of neurons in the rat brain during behavior. The microelectrode arrays are implanted surgically to monitor the electrical impulses that are emitted upon excitation from the ions in the rats’ brains. The arrays allow researchers to monitor over hundreds of cells within a single behaving animal. Regarding my specific research focus within the lab, future projects are going to be to design a new hyperdrive to be used with multi-channel linear recording shanks referred to as silicon probes. These probes use a higher density of sensors that have a high spatial resolution with neural signals being transmitted along the length of the entire shank. In my design, I will implement the Buzaki32 probes, which are a custom design. One unique feature of the design is to create a system that allows the probes to fluctuate in their depth penetration. Silicon probes are often implanted and then fixed in place, which is problematic if the depth of the electrode within the brain is not optimal. I am working with Dr. Burke to design a novel hyperdrive that will alleviate this problem. Finally. another project I am working on will involve designing a hyperdrive that incorporates an optrode. This is a fiber optic cable that allows neurons to be excited or inactivated with light, a technique referred to as optogenetics. Since brain cells have a membrane that contains proteins, scientists are implementing light-sensitive proteins, which are programmed to react to certain colors of light. Once the cells react to the light, positive ions rush into the cell, acting as the “on” switch causing the cell to fire or be inhibited. As a result, genes coupled to a certain light colored protein are implemented to the neurons of the brain, allowing researchers to control the neurons with the precise temporal resolution of an on-off switch. My team and I plan to research the possibilities of exposing light to the brain and implementing optogenetics with the standard hyperdrive and the silicon probe design.