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New SFU lab targets biomedical research

Carolyn Sparrey is setting up shop at Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus as the first female faculty member in Mechatronics Systems Engineering (MSE).

Funding announced Friday (Jan. 21) by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) will help her develop a Neurospine Biomechanics Lab, building on the program’s biomedical dimension. 

“In my lab we’re taking mechatronics approaches and applying them to biomedical problems,” says Sparrey.

The program’s other key areas of focus include robotics and the automotive and aerospace industries.

Research in Sparrey’s lab will target the biomechanics of tissue degeneration and the effect of aging on brain and spinal cord injury. 

“The goal of this research is to develop brain and spinal cord injury prevention, diagnostic and treatment technologies that are tailored to an individual patient, by accounting for factors such as age and pre-existing medical conditions like osteoporosis,” explains Sparrey, who came to SFU Surrey last year from the University of California Berkeley. 

SFU will field its first cohort of MSE graduates this spring – including just one female student. Sparrey hopes her research may attract more female students to the popular program, which has seen demand triple over the last three years.

MSE colleague Majid Bahrami is also receiving new CFI funding toward a sustainable energy lab. And Kris Starosta, in the department of chemistry, will use new funding for a specialized neutron generator that will aid research related to nuclear science. 

Funding for all three, totaling $360,000, is being made available through the CFI’s Leaders Opportunity Fund.

The field of mechatronics combines mechanical, electrical and software and computer engineering, and is used in the design and development of a wide range of computer-controlled electro-mechanical products and systems.

SFU Surrey’s MSE undergraduate program is one of the first of its kind in North America.

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