Engineering the senses

Carleton University Assistant Professor of Engineering, Adrian Chan, was recently presented the Dr. Michael Smith Promising Scientist Award by the Ottawa Life Sciences Council.

The prestigious science award is given annually to a researcher, new in his or her career and making significant contributions to his or her field.

Chair of the Department of Systems and Computer Engineering, Rafik Goubran, says since Chan joined the department a year and a half ago, he has been doing an outstanding job.

“We are very proud of his award,” says Goubran. “Especially because we are expanding our biomedical activities.”

Chan’s research grew from his graduate thesis on signal processing and speech recognition. Using a computer, Chan was able to give a voice to those who could not speak on their own. Taking signals from the facial muscles used to form words, the computer becomes the person’s “voice,” sounding out the words the user creates. Chan notes the accuracy rate is more than 90 percent.

“I am looking at the medical side, to see how feasible it would be as a voice-prosthesis for people with temporary or long term speech loss,” says Chan.

“These micro-electric signals can have a major impact in the future, for prosthetics and new medical devices,” notes Goubran.

Chan’s upcoming research will use an electronic nose to “smell” diseases in the body. Currently such devices are used in quality control for food. Chan wishes to explore it for medical purposes to determine the feasibility of detecting certain diseases.

The nose will be able to sense the environment, explains Chan, who adds the signals it reads will need to be interpreted as either healthy or unhealthy.

In the future, Chan will continue his research in the biomedical field, and notes that Ottawa is a great place to do it.

“Ottawa is becoming more collective and multi-disciplinary, and is on the front of becoming a goldmine [in this field],” he says.

From – http://www.now.carleton.ca/2005-1/641.htm

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