The Daily Gleaner: Student’s digital game aimed at human brain

This is Mexican student Adrian Aleman’s second trip to Canada. But he has spent the greater half of it working on a research project at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at the University of New Brunswick. Aleman, a fourth-year science student, is developing a digital game that will allow researchers to better understand how the brain’s function differsbetween amputees and able-bodied people. Aleman says he hopes to pursue his graduate studies at UNB as well.

“I’m grateful that I was able to that I was able to get the experience and work in another country with a top researcher,” he said. “But also work on an interesting, relevant project.” Aleman, an intern from the University of Guadalajara, has been pursuing his research with the help of the Mitacs Globalink Program, where students from around the world take part in a 12-week research internship to help benefit their home countries.The program, funded by the Government of Canada, allows international students to come and learn from cutting-edge programs, including chemistry, biomedical engineering and psychology.

“I was interested in prosthetic devices and I wanted to understand how to control modern prosthetic devices,” he said.“They are also more organized here, and it is easier to speak with professors and researchers.” His research project, which is being done under the supervision of Jon Sesinger, associate director of the biomedical engineering institute, will contribute to the next generation of robotic prosthetic limbs. “It is possible to make long-lasting scientific contributions in this field that will have a long and direct impact on the lives of people,” said Sesinger.

“To see someone’s face light up when their controlling is better, that’s very rewarding.” When he returns to Mexico, Aleman is hoping to share some of his knowledge at school and businesses throughout Guadalajara, the second-largest city in Mexico. “The plan was to come here and work with the devices and probably go there and say, ‘Hey, I know something. I can share some knowledge with you,’” said Aleman.“I want to help the industry in Mexico.”

In the global search for talent, Canada ranks sixth in international student recruitment – behind the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany and France.“International education is a large and growing activity. Universities around the world are attracting students from outside their borders,” said Rob Annan, interim CEO and scientific director of Mitacs Globalink. “What makes our program unique is instead of trying to attract large numbers, we find students who are the best and brightest in their home countries.”

From eight different countries, 473 students have been posted at 45 universities throughout Canada. Ten of those students are researching at UNB. “Students coming to Canada often think of the big universities like U of T (University of Toronto), McGill, UBC (University of British Colombia),” said Annan. “Students who come to UNB or Dalhousie are invariably enthusiastic and seem to come back. It’s a combination of the world-class research with a very welcoming, comfortable, social environment.”

This year, the program, which started in 2009, received close to 4,000 student applications and sent Canadian university students to study abroad for the first time as well. “At the institute, there’s a real sense of, ‘How can we develop technologies that have an impact right here locally?’”said Sesinger. “Over the last 30 years, we’ve created that international impact where people from six continents are coming to talk about this. Locally we can make an impact as well.

By: Elizabeth Fraser