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Recent PSU Graduate in Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Joshua Booren, Awarded National Science Foundation Graduate Research Program Fellowship
Author: Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science
Posted: April 27, 2012

Joshua Booren, a Winter 2012 graduate of the Maseeh College in Mechanical and Materials Engineering, has been awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Program Fellowship (GRFP). According to the NSF, the purpose of the GRFP “is to help ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce in the United States.” Awards provide three years of graduate education support to individuals who have demonstrated potential for significant achievements in science and engineering research. 

A graphic designer for many years, the birth of Joshua’s daughter with a rare chromosomal disorder in 2002 motivated Joshua to return to school to seek education and training in a field that could more directly and positively impact people’s lives. Joshua chose to pursue an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering for the wide range of job opportunities it affords, but his true interests are in biomedical engineering. Joshua is particularly interested in developing smart prosthetics and rehabilitation devices for movement disorders, an interest that grew out of the experiences he had with the many medical devices used to manage his daughter’s condition. With support and encouragement from his daughter’s medical team, on several occasions Joshua was able to develop solutions to overcome deficiencies in his daughter’s medical equipment and improve her care.

While a student at Portland State, Joshua took an electric circuits class from Dr. James McNames, Chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. After discovering that Dr. McNames conducted biomedical research, Joshua began working in McNames’s Biomedical Signal Processing Laboratory in November 2008. Under Dr. McNames’s mentorship, during his first two years of training Joshua built 13 devices to assist physicians in the clinical assessment of Parkinson’s disease, two of which have been in clinical trials and have resulted in patents with Joshua listed as one of the inventors.

While working toward his degree, Joshua accumulated more research experience continuing to work with Dr. McNames, in addition to participating in the Maseeh College Undergraduate Research and Mentoring Program. Furthermore, while accompanying Dr. McNames to Glasgow, Scotland, to present their research at the World Parkinson’s Congress, Joshua visited the bioengineering department at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. As a result of that visit, Joshua began working with Dr. Emma Henderson, an international expert in prosthetics and orthotics. With Dr. Henderson’s assistance in formulating the project proposal, Joshua was the recipient of two Maseeh College Innovation Program awards that allowed him to develop and research a project for using smart alloys to move prosthetics or any other application requiring a thin, flexible, and lightweight actuator, which is a mechanism that sets something into action.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, which covers graduate tuition and pays an annual stipend of $30,000 for up to three years, is recognition of Joshua’s outstanding abilities and accomplishments as a Maseeh College student, as well as the promise he shows to become an exceptional researcher, a path he has certainly demonstrated he has already started down. Joshua will attend the University of Utah in the autumn to pursue a Master’s degree in Bioengineering. He is grateful for the education he received at the Maseeh College, and in particular, how actively the college promotes undergraduate research through opportunities such as working closely with faculty in their laboratories, the Undergraduate Research and Mentoring Program, and the Innovation Program. Joshua says, “The research I have taken part in which included the honor of being surrounded by brilliant people from multiple disciplines has been a huge piece in my overall undergraduate education.”  

Congratulations to Joshua!