Nicole Gunderson is a junior in the Biomedical Engineering Program who is studying human-robot interactions for applications in surgical robots. She is currently conducting research about the development of a novel-path planning algorithm for autonomous vehicles.
What brought you to the University of Colorado Boulder and attracted you to the BME program?
When I was applying to universities, it was important to me that I ended up at a research institution. I was interested in participating in research as an undergraduate to learn what fields I am passionate about within biomedical engineering, which is an incredibly multidisciplinary area of study. Additionally, it was important to me to go to a school that allowed me to cultivate a community within my field. Engineering is a difficult and rigorous field, and it was important to me that the school I chose promotes an uplifting environment - somewhere it isn’t uncommon to see people laughing and smiling in the Engineering Center.
When I began the process of choosing my major in high school, I was fully planning to follow the pre-med track to become a doctor. However, in the last few years of school, I became involved in a robotics team, as well as a science fair where I developed an assistive technology device. Participating in these opportunities made me realize that I wanted a multidisciplinary education, where I would be able to explore my interests in both medicine as well as robotics and mechanical engineering. Although I originally enrolled at CU Boulder as a Chemical and Biological Engineering major, when Biomedical Engineering became available my sophomore year, I switched in almost immediately, knowing that it would give me the multidisciplinary education I was looking for.
Tell us about the research you have been a part of on campus.
I currently conduct research for the Autonomous Robotics and Perception Group within the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory. My work centers around the development of a novel-path planning algorithm for the deployment of autonomous vehicles in human populated environments. Through this laboratory I also developed a communication beacon deployment mechanism and other electromechanical components to assist in the development of a subterranean robotic system for the DARPA Subterranean Final Competition. This project addressed creating accurate odometry and maps in visually degraded environments.
I have also conducted research for the Interactive Robotics and Novel Technologies Laboratory, where I developed a product that explores the relationship between ferrofluid and electromagnets for applications as an assistive technology 'braille tablet' for the visually impaired. I believe that participating in research has been the most influential and beneficial experience I have had so far in my educational career. The opportunity to apply my coursework to the areas of study I am passionate about and hope to pursue in the future has been a truly incredible experience. Additionally, the professors and graduate students I have worked alongside have always been consistently willing to stick their necks out for me, as well as many other undergraduate students that they have worked alongside. The support of the research community has allowed me to achieve so many opportunities that seemed unattainable before getting involved.
How would you like your work to help society?
The reason I want to pursue a career in this field is because I believe that developing accessible and individualized treatment through the advancement of medical technology is the best way to provide everyone the dignified treatment they deserve. Working within biomedical engineering has been incredible as it has shown me a variety of ways to better patients' lives. No two of my colleagues are interested in the exact same area of work, and yet we all have the same goal of improving treatment methodologies through the advancement of biomedical knowledge.
Where do you see yourself next? What life goals are you pursuing?
I am currently considering either continuing my education through a graduate degree in robotics or a human robot interaction related field, or moving directly into an industry position within these fields.
What’s your favorite part about being a Buff?
I am an out-of-state student from the Seattle area. I moved to Colorado without knowing a single person here and only having visited once. I had heard so many horror stories about having a difficult adjustment period going to college out of state. While it was a tough transition at first, I have been able to develop such a home here. This school is truly so welcoming, with an insane amount of tight knit communities and opportunities for involvement. CU Boulder has pushed me to better myself in so many ways and I feel lucky to have found a school that proved my anxieties about college wrong.