Robotics Ph.D. Traineeship Program Focused on Healthcare Robotics

Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University faculty members are uniting to train the next generation of engineering students in healthcare robotics technologies, so they can better understand the changing needs of patients and their caregivers and healthcare providers. The official name of the Traineeship program is called ARMS – Accessibility, Rehabilitation, and Movement Science (ARMS): An Interdisciplinary Traineeship Program in Human-Centered Robotics.

Georgia Tech’s multidisciplinary Ph.D. program in Robotics currently accepts students from various engineering backgrounds. Although it does not have a direct focus on health, it provides sufficient foundational knowledge in the core elements of robotics, which includes control, mechanics, perception, autonomy/artificial intelligence, and human interaction. Participants admitted into the Robotics Ph.D. program are associated with diverse home school departments, including Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Interactive Computing. For the ARMS initiative, students will follow a unique healthcare robotics education program under this umbrella.

Curriculum Elements
The ARMS core curriculum is drawn from the course requirements of the Robotics Ph.D. degree, along with focused health-related courses and experiences to augment the training. Each student will have two research advisors for their thesis, a primary advisor from the robotics graduate faculty and a co-advisor from a clinical partner to ensure that their work is truly interdisciplinary. All of the training elements (with the exception of the immersion course discussed below) are also open to non-ARMS trainees. These required courses are positioned to count toward degree fulfillment either as a required component of the student’s curriculum or to satisfy their degree requirement for a minor.

Description of Curriculum Elements

  • Interfacing Engineering and Rehabilitation Course (Minor in Healthcare Engineering): A course that engages both engineering and clinical students. They will learn equally from clinical experts about their target demographics and the issues they face and from engineering faculty about how robotics can address these challenges. Members from collaborating medical organizations and non-profit agencies will regularly visit the class to talk with students. Discussion points and group projects will be derived from real case studies using persons with physical challenges as technology consumers and consultants.
  • Ethics, Privacy, and Regulations Course in Medicine and Biomedical Robotics (Minor Course in Healthcare Engineering): A course on ethics, privacy and regulations in medicine and biomedical robotics will be offered, where students learn about considerations that must be addressed when designing and deploying robotic systems for health.
  • Interdisciplinary projects immersion course (Minor Course in Healthcare Engineering): Interdisciplinary research training will provide students with hands-on healthcare experience during their first summer in the program. Matched with mentors in both engineering and healthcare, students will do one week of clinical rotations, where they will observe medical practices and learn about current problems in healthcare. Students will then conduct eight weeks of research using robotics to address healthcare issues discovered during rotations. Clinical partners with which students may work include Emory Medical School, Shepherd Center, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Emory ALS Center, Atlanta Area Agency on Aging, and the Veterans Administration.
  • Annual Research Symposium: Each year, the ARMS program will organize an annual two-day symposium “Community, Discovery, Training: From Health-Care Needs to Robot Solutions,” that will involve faculty and trainees, as well as our advisory board, clinical partners, and outside representatives from the healthcare industry whose work and interests are relevant to our ARMS initiative. The symposium will serve as an opportunity for our trainees to gain valuable experience in giving academic presentations, asking questions of other presenters, and networking with peers and senior researchers.
  • Monthly Seminar Series: There are a host of monthly seminars already available on both the Georgia Tech and Emory campus that are of relevance to Trainees, including the bi-weekly seminar series hosted by the Institute for Robotics at Georgia Tech. As part of the training program, we will co-sponsor a monthly speaker, followed by a social hour, to facilitate networking between the distinguished speakers, faculty, and students and maximize training opportunities for the students. ARMS Trainees will be expected to attend all seminars.

Additional Requirements

  • Communication Skills Training: Georgia Tech’s Center for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning (CETL) offers a 1 credit course for graduate students called Methods of Academic Presentation. In the Methods for Academic Presentation course, students are given the tools to better understand the conventions of academic and professional oral discourse. ARMS Trainees will be required to take this course during the Spring of their second year as it provides rubrics for measuring communication proficiency. As part of the professional skills training, ARMS Trainees will also participate in a learning module on “Communicating with Research Partners and Stakeholders” that will provide trainees with the skills to communicate effectively with diverse stakeholder groups. The module will develop trainees’ understanding of issues in communicating research to diverse stakeholders; and their skills in communicating effectively to audiences outside trainees’ areas of specialization, including communication with the media and with diverse stakeholders.
  • Professional Skills Training (Optional): In addition to collaborations with clinical partners, we will offer an opportunity for training in entrepreneurship. Atlanta has seen recent investments focused on growing the medical startup community as seen through incubator programs such as the NeuroLaunch NeuroScience Incubator and the ATDC Medical Device Incubator programs. Capitalizing on these resources, ARMS Trainees who have an interest in entrepreneurship will be supported, based on their interdisciplinary projects immersion course, to participate in various Georgia Tech student incubator programs already in existence during their 2nd summer in the program. Students may also choose, instead, to intern at one of the local medical startup companies in the Atlanta area.
  • Career and vocational training will be provided to students to expose them to the breadth of research and research-related careers, within and outside academia, through participation in the Atlanta BEST Program. The Atlanta BEST program (http://gs.emory.edu/sites/best/) is an NIH training grant at Emory for graduate students and postdocs who want to explore biomedical-related career options, through career exploration and professional development workshops. The workshops and information session are open to anyone that is part of the Emory and Georgia Tech broader communities. ARMS Trainees will be required to attend at least two of the workshops (of their choosing) each year as part of the ARMS curriculum.

How to Apply
To apply to the ARMS Traineeship program, students must apply to the Robotics Ph.D. Program through one of the participating units which will be their home unit:

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • Interactive Computing
  • Mechanical Engineering

They will indicate that they are applying for the Robotics Program through that unit by marking a check box and must address, in the first paragraph of their statement: Why you are interested in Healthcare Robotics along with an explicit statement indicating that you are applying for the ARMS Traineeship program. As minimum requirements the students must satisfy all of the specific admission requirements of the home unit.

This traineeship program is sponsored by the National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) Program under Award #1545287. Some doctoral students may be supported with fellowship funding available, under certain circumstances.