PhD student Chad Healy.
Chad Healy is a PhD student researching how the brain controls movement in Professor Alaa Ahmed’s lab. He returned to finish his PhD in 2021 after taking a break from his studies to complete an internship with SpaceX.
What brought you to the University of Colorado Boulder and attracted you to the BME program?
I initially joined CU Boulder in 2009 for a master’s degree in aerospace engineering. The wonderful town, great people and caliber of education drew me back to CU Boulder to continue my education in 2013 and again in 2021. Most recently, I was attracted to join the BME program because of the unique opportunity to be part of a new department under the guidance and leadership of my longtime mentor and advisor, Professor Alaa Ahmed. The chance to directly contribute to the early growth and development of the BME program was a huge draw for me.
Explain the research you are doing in Professor Ahmed’s lab.
In Professor Ahmed’s lab, we are focused on understanding how the brain controls movement. We take a modeling approach to describe human movement that combines neuroeconomic frameworks, dynamical models, control algorithms and machine learning techniques to describe human movement decisions. My research focuses on how we represent physical effort in our movement decisions.
How would you like your work to help society?
With a better understanding of the process of human movement, we can develop more effective treatments for movement disorders and improve rehabilitation techniques. We can also develop more human-like robotics and prosthetics.
Healy worked in Mission Control while at SpaceX.
What was your role at SpaceX and how was that internship experience?
I led the Human Factors team, which focused on astronaut integration with our various spacecraft, including conducting all human-in-the-loop tests. I was also given the opportunity to work in Mission Control as the Crew Operations and Resources Engineer (CORE).
I really enjoyed my time at SpaceX! It was very motivating to work with so many bright, hard-working engineers and to make a measurable impact every day. When I took the internship in 2016, I was given the opportunity for a full-time role, but I always intended to finish my PhD. In 2021, the timing was right, and I was lucky enough to be able to continue my PhD where I had left off.
What’s your favorite part about being a Buff?
I feel like I could talk all day about the wonderful things about being a Buff, so it’s hard to choose a favorite. First and foremost, you get a world-class education in a world-class environment. The access to year-round outdoor adventure is something I think all Buffs appreciate about CU Boulder. Beyond that, it’s being a part of a supportive community that provides opportunities to learn and explore.
On a personal note, we recently got a puppy, Isabella or “Isa” – a five-month old GSP/Blue Heeler mix. Another thing I appreciate about the Boulder community is how dog-friendly it is. Looking forward to taking her out on trail runs this summer!