Never give up. Always believe in yourself.
iian Black graduated with his Doctorate Degree in December of 2019 after successfully presenting his dissertation work, which described a device he had been working on for more than three years during his Biomedical Engineer Ph.D. at FIU, that detects signals traveling in a preferred direction in the nerve. After his graduation, iian continued developing the project until granted with the patent titled “Directional-Specific Extraneural Recording Device.”
The nerve is like a highway with cars going in opposite directions. “Cars” traveling from a person’s brain, for example, could instruct his or her index finger to press a button. Cars traveling the opposite direction, from the index finger to the brain, would then convey information about the amount of force being exerted on the button. Most conventional devices detect passing cars but not their direction. The novelty of our device is that it can tell you which way cars are going. This can enable us to understand how the brain and body communicate with each other to coordinate movements and regulate organ function. It can also lead to devices that intercept specific signals for restoring normal function to damaged limbs or organs. Expressed Ph.D. iian Black.
iian’s idea started in 2016 while he was trying to understand a theory for neural recording developed in the 1970s by Richard Stein and Keir Pearson. The method described the signals one could expect to record inside a tube placed around a short section of nerve. Stein and Pearson designed tubes with a recording electrode situated in the middle, and most researchers over the years have followed their example. However, iian realized their theory predicts recording sites offset to the left or right. More importantly, offset recording sites, unlike central ones, preferentially detect neural signals traveling in a particular direction.
FIU Biomedical Engineering Chair and Professor, Dr. Ranu Jung, was iian’s mentor in this project and supported him throughout the process, encouraging to keep on with the research and the developing of the device. Also, Dr. Jung continues collaborating with him on publishing papers related to the work.
My experience working with Dr. Jung was both challenging and rewarding. Sometimes I felt like giving up, but she never stopped giving me the resources and support I needed to keep going. She had faith in me even when I couldn’t see where the research was going. said Ph.D. iian Black.
While studying his Ph.D., iian also felt the support of his fellow Ph.D. colleagues from the “Adaptive Neural Systems Laboratory.” At the FIU Biomedical Engineering Department, students can always count on each other with help and critical pieces of advice to improve as professionals and Iians Dissertation project was not the exemption.
In our lab, I found great delight and comfort in my fellow Ph.D. students. We shared many of the same struggles, and they were tirelessly supportive of me and curious about my work, even though our projects were very different. We had great comradery, and I feel I could pick up the phone and call any of them at a moment’s notice. I know they feel this way about me. Our lab manager, Jeff, played a special role in contributing to my success, and what began as a working relationship is turning out to be more of a lasting friendship.
iian shared encouragement for all the FIU Biomedical Engineering students that are going through this fantastic path of knowledge and discovery.
Don’t take things at face value. Try out things that you read or hear about for yourself in the lab. Be fully committed to your learning process. Real learning is a bumpy road. Be patient with yourself. Recognize this is a unique opportunity in your life to learn, one that you may never have again. Never give up. Always believe in yourself. No doubt, others are too.