I began my training in the combined MD/PhD program between the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. My PhD training was in CMU's Robotics Institute, with a certificate from the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition. To the best of my knowledge, I was the first person in the world to earn the combined MD/PhD degree specifically in Robotics. My dissertation research developed polythiophene, an electrically conductive polymer, as a biocompatibility coating for neural electrodes. Intriguingly, we found that single strands of this polymer could actually insert directly into a cell membrane, providing intracellular electrical access without membrane rupture or leakage.
During residency training in Psychiatry at the University of Washington, I began development of a novel paradigm for closed-loop brain stimulation. Despite extensive neuroimaging and neuroscience research, the dawning of the 21st century left us without biomarkers -- the electrical signatures we would need to detect and treat the brain-based causes of severe persistent mental illness. Given my prior training and involvement with the brain-computer interface (BCI) community, I realized that BCI technologies could overcome this hurdle. Specifically, I proved that it was possible to design a brain stimulator where the patient's intention was the key signal driving stimulation changes. We hope that in the long run, this will lead to new devices that literally give patients back control over their own brains and minds.
I then joined Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital, first as a Research Fellow and then an Instructor in the Department of Psychiatry. I hold a second appointment in the MIT Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences, through which I explore basic science collaborations that can develop into new brain stimulation treatments.