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    Postdoc in exoskeleton design at the University of Southern California


    Applicants are invited to consider a postdoctoral fellowship position in the pediatric movement disorders laboratory at the University of Southern California department of Biomedical Engineering, under the direction of Dr. Terence Sanger. We have obtained funding for a new project on myoelectrically-controlled upper-extremity exoskeleton prostheses for children with brain injury. Many of these children suffer from cerebral palsy, neurodegenerative diseases, or other neurological disorders affecting movement. The overall goal of the laboratory is to understand, quantify, and treat movement disorders by using computational neuroscience techniques to model the causes of both normal and abnormal movements, to model the role of learning in both the cause and recovery from developmental motor disorders, and to develop new technology based on these results to improve the lives of affected children. The exoskeleton project is intended to provide a near-term solution for improved function, by facilitating the voluntary components of movement while limiting involuntary or abnormal
    components of movement.

    The initial project includes construction and human-subjects testing of a lightweight wearable shoulder-elbow exoskeleton with McKibben pneumatic muscles as the primary assistive power source. Force in the muscles will be controlled by sEMG processed via nonlinear filtering. Other available laboratory technology includes magnetic motion tracking, multi-channel surface EMG, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), special-purpose biofeedback equipment, single-joint and multi-joint haptic robots, synchronized digital video capture, and amplifiers and data interface for scalp evoked potential measurements. We have developed high-capacity neural network models of motor systems implemented in programmable (FPGA) hardware and graphics processing unit (GPU) hardware. Ongoing theoretical projects investigate Bayesian nonlinear signal processing and stochastic control algorithms for understanding and interacting with the human motor system.

    The postdoctoral fellow will be primarily responsible for the design, construction, and initial testing of upper extremity exoskeleton prototypes. The fellow will have access to all necessary equipment and supplies, and is expected to supervise 1-3 graduate students involved in the project. The fellow will participate in the development of multiple degree of freedom myoelectric human-robot interfaces, which is a collaborative project with investigators at Politecnico di Milano and Fondazione S. Lucia in Rome. The fellow will also be involved with other experiments in the laboratory, including experiments on motor behavior under variable risk, tests of the mechanism of deep-brain stimulation, and modeling of data processing based on multi-channel in vivo recording from basal ganglia of children with movement disorders. There is considerable flexibility in the design of experiments, and the fellow will be encouraged to pursue additional areas of interest.

    The fellow will receive training in the recognition of specific diagnoses and in the design of experiments for children with motor disorders including cerebral palsy, dystonia, and chorea. This training will occur through observation of clinics at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, as well as close contact with children during experiments.

    I seek a highly motivated candidate with particular interest in understanding and treating pathological movement in children. Appropriate background includes a PhD in Robotics, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, BioEngineering, or a related field. Background should include familiarity with robot mechanical design and control, ideally with specific experience in the design of human upper or lower-extremity exoskeletons. Experience in human subjects research is highly desirable. Familiarity with Matlab and a statistical analysis package such as R, the Matlab statistics package, or SPSS is important. Candidates should have strong programming skills suitable for design of robot interface and control algorithms. Electronic interface and/or analog circuit design experience is helpful.

    The position is available starting in the Summer or Fall of 2017. Salary is competitive and is set by USC rules depending on level of training. US resident and visa-eligible international candidates are welcome to apply. Please email a CV, letter of interest, and contact information for references to:

    Terence D. Sanger, MD PhD
    University of Southern California
    Dept. Biomedical Engineering, Biokinesiology, Child Neurology
    1042 Downey Way, DRB 140, Los Angeles, CA 90089-1111
    cell: (650) 714-9475, office: (323) 300-5970, Fax: (323)297-2991
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