Engineering Tools for Health Science

Engineering the tools of scientific discovery is a National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenge. I have chosen to focus on supporting scientific discovery related to health and wellness, which is one of Oregon State University's three Signature Areas of Distinction. My research students and I provide programming tools that enable health researchers to create and reuse code for studies.

Specifically, most of these tools simplify the process of creating and deploying cloud+mobile programs that enable scientists to easily deploy sensors, collect data to the cloud, efficiently analyze data, and visualize results -- thereby supporting targeted interventions based on individuals' health and wellness status.

In one example project, USDA has provided a grant for a system that our health scientists use to monitor adolescents' physical activity (with Fitbits), to monitor their diet and behavior (with mobile-compatible surveys), to schedule customized reminders (for intervention and monitoring purporses), and to analyze resulting data. Another system, funded by NIH/NIEHS, enables health scientists to remotely monitor subjects' location (via Android GPS), to monitor subjects' behavior (with mobile surveys), to monitor subjects' breathing function (with Bluetooth-enabled spirometers), and to remotely customize the behavior of this system while it is deployed in the field.

In collaboration with National Instruments, we developed a visual dataflow language (called LondonTube aka PexPipe) that wrapped data-collection components to further simplify the process of creating and deploying mobile-web-cloud programs, as well as replicating studies through reuse of those programs.

Problem: Scientists struggle to create high-performance code with complex dataflow

Solution: Tools for easily collecting data remotely and analyzing on the cloud

Related funding

  • Personal Environmental Exposure Assessment using Wristbands for Epidemiological Studies in Disadvantaged Communities, NIH 12/14-11/19 (grant: $2,573,097, my share: $43,800)
  • The Wave~Ripples For Change: Obesity Prevention for Active Youth In Afterschool Programs Using Virtual- And Real-World Experiential Learning, USDA 2/13-5/18 (grant: $4,671,604, my share: $767,512)