ICRU Newsletter: Undergraduate Excels in Virtual Soldier Research

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates December 2010 Newsletter
By Lindsey Knake

When I started doing undergraduate research as a freshman, I never thought I would gain as much from a research experience as I have through ICRU and the Virtual Soldier Research (VSR) program. Owning my own research project, publishing a paper, and presenting at an international conference were things I never expected to achieve as an undergraduate. I wanted to work in a Biomedical Engineering research lab to gain a glimpse into the engineering and research world. I did not expect to be offered so many professional opportunities.

I spent the first year and a half of my research performing simple tasks and learning the skills I would need to conduct professional grade research. I was tasked with creating a new vision model for our virtual human S a n t o s ™ , which is used to test virtual prototypes inside a computer environment. I formulated, coded, and implemented a new vision model that incorporated horizontal and vertical eye movement into Santos™. After testing and implementing this model, my mentor Dr. Tim Marler allowed me to present my results to Caterpillar Inc., the motivator and investor behind the project. Dr. Marler also encouraged me to submit my research to the International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics (AHFE). With the travel grant provided from ICRU, I was able to attend the conference to present my paper.

Although I knew presenting my paper at a conference would be an invaluable experience, I did not expect to gain as much out of the experience as I did. Not only did I gain professional presentation experience and a glimpse into the professional side of research, but I also was exposed to different types of research in my field of digital human modeling. I learned about research outside of my small discipline and talked with professors, graduate students, and researchers from around the world working in many different areas in the human factors and ergonomics discipline. This experience opened my eyes to the real world of research and how the collaboration of work from many different groups and countries is crucial to the development and progression of research.

I think working with an entire research project from formulation to publication is essential for undergraduates to understand how exciting and important research is in our society. I am thankful for all the support that I have received from ICRU, VSR, and my mentor Dr. Marler, who has helped me truly experience professional research. Dr. Marler’s passion for research and discovery is infectious. His passion and my experiences have inspired me to continue doing research in my future career. After this project and my graduation, my long term aspirations include attending medical school and incorporating my Biomedical Engineering research experience into the medical field. I plan to continue using the research skills I have gained at the University of Iowa and following my passion for research. I strongly encourage all undergraduates to take advantage of the many great research resources available through the University. Speaking from experience, you will be surprised at what you can learn. You will be guaranteed to walk away with an invaluable experience, professional skills that are uncommon for typical undergraduates, and possibly an unexpected passion for research.