Sensor Lab Seed Grants Advance Innovative Research

March 22, 2022

The UArizona Health Sciences Sensor Lab awarded seed grants to eight faculty members and two student projects to improve health and wellness.

The Sensor Lab seed grants will allow researchers to generate data that could lead to additional future funding to develop new health technologies and applications.

The Sensor Lab seed grants will allow researchers to generate data that could lead to additional future funding to develop new health technologies and applications.

Eight teams were awarded a total of nearly $400,000 in seed-grant funding by the University of Arizona Health Sciences Sensor Lab for sensor-based projects that promote innovative research and show potential for the development of new technologies or applications.

The Sensor Lab is a UArizona Health Sciences strategic initiative that provides access to sensor technology and expertise to encourage creativity and innovation. The Sensor Lab offers state-of-the-art sensor systems and development platforms, as well as reconfigurable testing spaces and expertise in data collection and analysis.

“By awarding the seed grants, we have developed collaborative relationships with highly qualified research teams, including faculty and students,” said Gustavo de Oliveira Almeida, PhD, coordinator for the Sensor Lab. “This will be a continuing effort with many of these researchers, and we are hopeful they can generate useful preliminary data that leads to more significant external funding in the future.”

The seed grants will support the following researchers and projects:

  • Zhao Chen, PhD, MPH, chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the UArizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and BIO5 Institute member, has developed tai chi and qigong interventions using in-person and virtual modalities. The research team is actively investigating the effectiveness of a virtual intervention to improve physical and mental health of older workers.
  • Janine E. Hinton, PhD, RN, associate clinical professor in the UArizona College of Nursing, has proposed an intelligent simulation environment prototype to train health care professionals to reduce medical errors and to develop domain-specific complex adaptive competencies. The prototype would integrate Sensor Lab resources such as eye tracking, motion tracking, heart-rate variability and electrodermal activity, with mixed reality and artificial intelligence applications.
  • William D.S. Killgore, PhD, director of the Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab in the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson’s Department of Psychiatry and member of the BIO5 Institute, seeks to better measure cognitive and behavioral deficits associated with mild traumatic brain injuries. His project will develop and program a virtual reality headset and sensor system with a simple game-like scenario to assess cognitive performance using artificial intelligence, machine learning and computational neuroscience algorithms.
  • Adarsh Pyarelal, PhD, research scientist in the UArizona College of Social and Behavioral Sciences’ School of Information, is using artificial intelligence for speech and natural language processing to develop an open-source dashboard that can detect and repair poor team communication.
  • Philipp Gutruf, PhD, assistant professor in the UArizona College of Engineering and BIO5 Institute member, is testing the hypothesis that the integration of tactile sensation with other sensing modalities in robotic surgery will significantly improve the surgeon’s skills acquisition, improve intra-operative experience and provide an additional layer of quality assurance and patient safety.
  • Yuanyuan “Kay” He, PhD, assistant professor in the UArizona College of Fine Arts, composed StellarScape, an immersive multimedia show that includes live musicians, electronic music and dancers collaborating with interactive cinematography, fusing kinesthetic and acoustic sensing with cosmic simulation in real time. In collaboration with the Sensor Lab, Stellarscape seeks to deliver the performance to a variety of audiences with advanced interactive sensor technologies.
  • Kristen Renner, PhD, research assistant professor in the College of Medicine – Tucson’s Department of Orthopedic Surgery, seeks to understand the relationship between pre- and post-operative patient characteristics to improve total knee arthroplasty outcomes. Her team will investigate whether wearable devices could eliminate research limitations by decreasing participant visits to a central research location and reducing the cost, labor and skills needed to collect data.
  • Kate E. Hughes, DO, assistant professor of emergency medicine in the College of Medicine – Tucson, is evaluating whether a mixed-reality simulation system can be developed to provide anatomically accurate representations of various airway configurations for laryngoscopy, while also providing immersive scenarios that induce stress in learners for cognitive tasks.

Nearly $350,000 was awarded to eight principal investigators with an additional $27,000 for graduate and undergraduate research projects. Drs. Gutruf and Pyarelal received additional awards that will support research conducted by students in their labs.

“The Sensor Lab will open new frontiers of discovery not only at the University of Arizona Health Sciences but across the university as a whole, enabling researchers to harness great advances in sensor technology,” said Jennifer Barton, PhD, director of the Sensor Lab and BIO5 Institute. “Our goal with the grants was to identify and connect with researchers who could quickly utilize the funding to support their projects. The quality and number of proposals we received was exciting for us and we look forward to offering another round of grants in the future.”


Blair Willis